The new system requires readers to be logged into Facebook and comments are by default linked to the person's page. This transparency (Facebook's privacy critics might laugh at the word) is supposed to create an environment where comments follow a socially correct etiquette, the argument goes.
The changeover happened on Friday, Dec. 3, with all nine papers publishing an online story describing the system and soliciting feedback. So far, most of the responses have been negative, with readers decrying the loss of anonymity, which they say allows for more honest viewpoints, and criticizing the papers for putting "civility" ahead of free and open debate.
A few readers warned that trolls would simply create fake Facebook accounts and return with the same aggressive madness. Some readers worried about their own privacy, saying they didn't like that comments were automatically posted to their Facebook pages. A few readers said they liked the new system and hoped it would make for more civil discussions.
Change always comes hard in the daily newspaper world. Take away a comic strip and you're likely to swamp every department with cranky phone calls - the kind of reaction news editors would love to come in response to, say, actual news. Still, there are interesting questions surrounding anonymous posts and the question of when an opinion become unacceptable as well as the thought of newspapers aligning themselves with Facebook's private profit machine to promote a kind of civility.
Below, I've rounded up a few of the comments that came in over the weekend.
From an unhappy reader in the Whittier Daily News:
I feel the lack of anonymity restricts the truth, people are more inclined to say what they think when they're not being monitored by a moderator. Sure most of the remarks were rude and bigoted, but some stated hardcore facts and relevance to the post.A dubious Pasadena Star-News reader:
The anonymous comments were the best part of this paper.
Compared to the Glendale News Press which requires comments to be approved, Star News had a lively conversation.
1. Why do conversations about the news need to be "civil?"An aggressive rejection in the LA Daily News:
2. Thanks for defining civility for us all.
Good luck with this.
I will never participate in your comments again. "Civil" means repression in this context and I will stop reading your FUCKING SWILL.The San Bernardino Sun had a few positive comments, like this one:
I think the new Facebook-based comment feature for The Sun, Daily Facts, and Daily Bulletin is great. The public comment feature on too many online news outlets have been overrun by immature, offensive, and asinine comments from users protected by anonymity.One Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reader sees a conspiracy:
The Daily Bulletin sold out! This is just a move to protect corrupt politicians and their Shady developer Godfathers. Nothing is worse than when they steal from the tax payers, name libraries after themselves and then have to hear the negative comments of the victimized public. Although alot of mud slinging whent on in the old style of posting, at least it was an open public forum that people could use to express their true sentiments and beliefes , good or bad. This new method of traceable commenting and a lack of true public input will only mean that the cancer of corruption will choke up the wheels of justice and crush the common citizen. Good luck to us all.