The current dialogue between this weblog and reporter Paul Vitello of the New York Times, in addition to raising some valid issues worthy of discussion, has helped us pinpoint another problem here at GetReligion that needed to be fixed. It seems that the click-on "Policies" link up there in our masthead has been broken for some time now, although no one seems to know when or how the problem developed.
What's the use of having policies if no one can read them?
This has been fixed, or as fixed as something can be in the wild world of comments pages in the blogosphere. You know, one person's valid comment is another person's screed.
I have, many times, quoted the following wisdom of Steve Waldman, who in 1999 founded the wild and crazy cyberspace known as Beliefnet.com and then left to join the Barack Obama administration. Faced with legions of comments-page scribes who wanted to argue about doctrine and politics, Waldman came up with the following guidelines for what they could and couldn't get away with.
This may not be a precise quote, but it's very close. I didn't have a notepad at that particular dinner table in Key West.
"At Beliefnet, we'll allow someone to say something like this in a comment: 'According to the doctrines of my faith, you are wrong and you are going to hell.' What we will not allow someone to say is this, 'According to the doctrines of my faith, you are wrong and you are going to hell and I would like to assist in that process by any means possible.' "
Well, here at GetReligion we are no where near that wild and crazy. Here is the short memo that we have just posted up there under "Policies." It is essentially what the Rt. Rev. Douglas LeBlanc and I came up with five-plus years ago when we began to realize that we were going to have to work hard to keep the comments boards somewhat under control.
This is what we expect from our readers who leave comments here.
1. Engage the contents of the post. This is a journalism weblog. Please strive to comment on journalism issues, not your opinions of the doctrinal or political beliefs of other people. [If you leave a TrackBack, link to the post.]
2. Provide a valid email address or a link to your blog or website. If you're unwilling to do this, we do not owe you a forum.
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5. Do not engage in ad hominem arguments. We will delete such comments punctually, and will not respond to complaints (whether public or private) about the deletions.
6. We reserve the right to identify trollish behavior for what it is.
Keep it clean, friends, and try to focus on journalism issues. We'll do our best, too, in this sinful, fallen world.
Editor's note: The troll illustration the accompanies this post is from "The Lord of the Rings" movies and does not represent any known comments-page regular here at GetReligion.