Trashing comments on blogs: A form of censorship?

I need some feedback fellow bloggers.  In my journalism class, we use a blog hosted by a local newspaper to publish student produced journalism stories.  Our professor, who is a former journalist herself, is the mediator and administrator for this site.  As such, she uses in the same way she would if it were a print article being published in a newspaper.  Yet it is on a blog. So we receive comments.

Some are quite colorful. 

We received one this week that was more of a rant, and it was hardly constructive.  Likely it was also filled with half truths.

Our professor posed the question:  Should this comment be approved for the entire readership to see?

We debated this for most of the class period.  There are two schools of thought in this sharp divide:

One group feels we should approve the comment.  It is a blog after all and blogs are intended to foster open dialogue and everyone is allowed to their opinion.   Since the blog was free of obscenities or profanity – put it out there.  If you start deleting comments, then you are only publishing comments that share your perspective.  By doing so, you are shaping the topic in your own way and this a form of censorship.  Even though we use it for journalistic learning it is a blog and we should allow all perspectives to enter into the dialogue.  Even if we may think it the comment is absurd. 

The second group feels that we should maintain the integrity of our journalistic endeavors.  Since we will not be investing our time to investigate any of the accusations in the comment we cannot ethically publish them.  We should not give an audience to this type of authorship.  A newspaper does not publish every letter to the editor, and we shall run this blog in the same discriminating spirit.  This comment may invite another and it may run away from us in an acerbic dialogue that will take away the value and the good writing of the original piece.

Before I reveal my thoughts on the matter, tell me which side of the fence do you fall on?

 Image taken from:  Google Images, Censorship

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9 Comments

Filed under adult education, Alicia Legg, Continuing Education, No Adult Left Behind

9 responses to “Trashing comments on blogs: A form of censorship?

  1. Melissa

    Oh I do love how you are withholding your side of the fence…suspense! Well, I really had to think hard and long about this. My thoughts could change with some persuasion, but at this moment I feel that you do not need to post the comment. I have several reasons; the lack of anything constructive about the comment, I agree that you can edit just as a newspaper would regardless of the the fact it’s used for your journalism stories, I don’t consider it sensoring if it’s not a useful comment and more of a rant. Those are my thoughts as of this moment. I am entirely curious to here others comment on this and of course your feelings as well.

    • Thank you for the thoughtful reply Melissa. I really like how you responded. It is a Journalism class, so you really addressed the root of the issue. Do you feel that people sometimes delete comments because the commentors may present a side that the author simply does not agree with?

  2. Erin

    We are fortunate enough to live in a country where freedom of speech is a right and not a privilege-
    I don’t have to like or believe in what another person may say, but at least it can be said and I’m most thankful for that! Gotta love that 1st Amendment!

    • You said it Erin! Thank you so much for the response. Because I love your perspective so much, I’d like to know more about your opinion. What if the people are saying complete nonsensical drivel? What if it is slanderous rants? Should we host their comments on our site?

  3. Of course, I was in class and contributed to the discussion, but I’ll try to dial back some of the passion here.

    If the blog is going to “trash” non-spam comments, I think there needs to be a detailed comment policy. Readers need to know what will be published and what won’t.

    Additionally, in this situation the comment being discarded is in response to a previous comment. Not publishing the comment interrupts the conversational tone of the blog.

    I think one of the following things should happen:

    1. Publish the comment in total, (my preference). The blog owner could add a comment about anything deemed controversial.

    2. Don’t publish the comment. Reach out to the commenter via e-mail telling them why the comment is not being published. Encourage the commenter to resubmit a comment that could be published. (Not ideal, in my opinion.)

    3. Don’t publish the comment, but post a comment indicating that a comment was received and not published. Provide background about why it wasn’t published. (Again, not ideal. This might even be more confusing.)

    The worst thing to do, in my opinion, is to just trash the comment without taking other action. Doing so could turn-off readers whose comments go unpublished. It could also invite discussion on other blogs. (Like this one!)

    • Wade, thank you so much for your response. Frankly, if you hadn’t responded I would have been disappointed since you were so firmly planted in one camp. The thing I love most about college is that it humbles me. It makes me think critically about all of my solid opinions and evaluate. Our Journalism professor does that for me. Wade, how then do you respond that by allowing this comment to post as is, we give the nonsensical, slanderous babble a place to vent. Why should we host their comments? And when should we draw the line? Should we ever?

      • The class makes me think, too. Definitely a good thing.

        Then again, so do posts like this from you. Also a good thing.

        I think the answers to your questions are both simple and complicated. Simple, because I think a clear and visible comment policy is the answer. (Something that is glaringly missing from our class blog.) Complicated, because creating that comment policy is a challenge.

        I’m trying to do just that for my own blog, and I’m struggling with it. Some things are easy: trash spam & vulgarity. Other things are more difficult. I don’t want to allow personal attacks. But where is that line drawn? What’s a personal attack and what’s legitimate criticism? Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with those sorts of comments… yet.

        For our class’s blog, I think the lines may be a bit easier to draw. Make it a very strict comment policy. Make the policy visible. And then, feel free to trash any comments falling outside the policy.

        Wow. I think I wrote a book…

  4. Dierdre

    I’m in favor of publishing the entire “rant” – it’s called respecting the first amendment…unless the blog has clearly published guidelines which make it very easy to determine if the blog post meets the CTQs then, I think you have to publish the post in it’s entirety. No issue with posting an Editor’s comment with a disclaimer that publishing comments does not constitute agreement with, or accuracy of the posting.

    • Dierdre, I absolutely love your perspective. For any reader who may not know, CTQ is an acronym for “critical to quality”. I think the idea of the disclaimer is a really terrific one, because that answers justifies giving publication to this comment. Dierdre, do you think that there is ever a time a comment should be trashed?

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