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How to get your comments rejected

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As the editor who most often moderates submitted reader comments, I'm sensitive to allegations that FCW is censoring certain points of view. In fact, while I have not done a close count, I think that probably 85 percent or more of the comments I evaluate end up on the site. The few that don't have some easily identified characteristics that earn a click of the "delete" button.

It may be helpful, therefore, for me to tell you a little a bit about the things that will make me reject a comment.

Obvious spam or self-promotion. We want you to express your opinions; we don't want you to use our comment space to sell your products, promote your blog or company, or entice our users to click on links to who knows where.

Foul language. Come on, your momma raised you better. If you can't express your opinion without using dialog from a Quentin Tarantino script, you can't express it here.

Personal attacks. Lately, some of our stories have drawn large numbers of comments that are aimed directly at people involved in the stories. Our reporting on the Veterans Affairs Department's IT troubles is a good example of this. If you want to criticize an official based on documented facts you cite, we'll likely publish it -- especially if it helps to put the story in context. If, however, you just want to rant about someone being incompetent, unethical or "weird" (as one commenter put it), go elsewhere.

False identification. We do not require our commenters to identify themselves, but do require them to identify themselves truthfully if they do at all. One's email address is never published, and including a valid address will help me to verify your identity or answer other questions that might be holding up approval.

Conversation Domination. When I see multiple comments from the same person in the same day, I will probably pick one or maybe two of them to approve and delete the rest, even if they otherwise meet the criteria for acceptance. The comments section should be a conversation among readers, not one or two voices holding forth.

Off-topic comments. There are comments that do not include any of the above transgressions, but still don't pass muster. If your comment is not germane to the story to which you're posting it, I probably won't use it – not because there is anything wrong with it, but because it doesn't further that particular conversation.

As a general rule, if your comment is on-topic, cordial and focused on the issue rather than swiping at people, it will appear. Moderated comments serve the reader by ensuring the comment threads provide a useful and engaging discussion, not just a series of tirades. We hope you appreciate it, and we hope that those of you who read without commenting will consider joining the discussions.

Posted by Michael Hardy on Jul 31, 2013 at 11:21 AM


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