On Monday, August 10, Spectrum’s new commenting policy will go into effect. Like many online media outlets have done, we hope that by making specific changes to the way we invite comments below the articles on our website, we can balance free expression and civil discourse.
One of the changes that occurred some time ago was in the way we talk about our online presence. Spectrum has gone from a blog (short for “weblog,” which refers to an informal, regularly updated online journal) to a full-service news and analysis website. Spectrum isn’t a blog any longer, and so you’ll now hear us talk about the Spectrum Website instead.
Along with the move toward a more robust online presence has come the need for a more intentional policy that specifies what we ask and expect of readers who choose to comment. Spectrum’s Board members have deliberated for a very long time about how to best to invite reader response, and the following is what they have decided, in consultation with the Spectrum Web Team:
If you respond to this article, please:
Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.
Perhaps the most significant change is the request that commenters limit themselves to one comment per article. This gives readers the opportunity to share specific, thoughtful feedback to articles, and will hopefully minimize comment threads that stray off-topic or become exchanges of personal disagreement between commenters.
Authors are encouraged to respond to specific comments at their discretion, and if an author chooses to engage a commenter directly, a follow-up from the commenter is welcome.
The commenting platform that Spectrum uses, Discourse, has built in a unique feature that we will leverage to its full potential. Discourse calls it the Lounge, and it is a place for regular website commenters to talk with one another out of earshot, so to speak, of the general public. Spectrum’s Lounge (the name Discourse gave it) will be the place to which commenters who participate regularly on the website, and have gained a trust level 3 (again, Discourse’s designation) through their regular, positive participation, will have automatic access and the ability to dialogue at length with no limit to the number of their comments. The Lounge is only visible to registered users who have qualified for its use.
The commenters who have already qualified for the "Lounge" area will receive private messages with instructions on the use of the Lounge. Those who wish to engage one another in back-and-forth on any topic are asked to use the Lounge for that purpose.
We will observe a 30-day trial period for the updated commenting policy, after which Spectrum's Board, along with its Web Team, will assess the effectiveness of the changes.
We want Spectrum to be known as a place not only for smart analysis and independent, honest reporting, but also a place where civil discourse can thrive, and where all voices can have equal opportunity in discussions that our articles engender. Our updated commenting policy reflects that goal. We invite our readers and commenters to join with us in making that goal a reality. Thank you for your participation in Spectrum’s online community!
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.