Here’s why the comments section gets closed

We are living in a new age of discourse in the United States. Disruption is in; dialogue is out.

This is presenting an increasing challenge to blogs and websites that still allow comments in the belief that individual perspectives add value. Many sites, as has been documented here many times, have simply given up in the recognition that in the age of disruption, it is a lost cause.

NewsCut is a one-person job on a site that requires 24/7 attention. In the age of disruption, this will require changes, some of which were employed this week.

Posting and moderating at the same time requires a commitment that is strained in this new age. I choose — when given the choice — to focus on finding and posting interesting material. At the same time, however, I am not willing to let the comments section degenerate to the point of being a lost cause. So when I am unable to give moderation attention, I will simply close the post to further comments, although it may later be reopened.

At the same time, I am re-employing a higher standard for the comments that are posted and meeting it is your responsibility.

If a comment doesn’t add value and individual perspective and knowledge, it will be deleted. If you don’t understand what constitutes value and individual perspective, might I suggest reading the comments on this post.

If the goal of a commenter is merely and obviously to inflame, it will be deleted. If the comment merely says how much you don’t care about the topic of the post, it will be deleted. If it calls names, it will be deleted. And of course, the ignorant, racist, sexist, threatening, or otherwise worthless comments get the delete-key treatment.

A study here and there has shown that a poor comment section diminishes the perceived value of the post itself, which is the goal of the disruption.

Twitter is a great spot for one-line “shots” and “zings” and I would encourage you to open an account and take your heat there, and try to provide light here.

Let me re-embrace the social desk standard of the New York Times as a yardstick going forward. Simply, I need to be convinced that your comment is meant to inform and convince, rather than insult and inflame.

You may review this post from September for additional guidance and standards, and bring your “‘A’ game” to the dialogue.



  • dukepowell

    As one who has been rightfully deleted on several occasions, I agree with NewsCut’s decision. However, I still object to those who post anonymously.

    • I fought the real name fight but changed when Facebook comments proved it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. I do agree, though, that a name makes it easier to establish a more human connection. Maybe people are afraid of that, though.

      • dukepowell

        “a name makes it easier to establish a more human connection. Maybe people are afraid of that, though.”

        Agreed… I’m perfectly willing to attach me name to opinions that others may find offensive. It offends me, however, when others disagree anonymously in an equally offensive manner.

        I appreciate you dilemma, Bob, but I’m not going to change. I’ll attempt to follow your reasonable guidelines.

        • You bring a lot to the joint, Duke. Wouldn’t want you to change.

        • KTN

          I post with my initials, and here’s why. I work in a field where nobody cares about my political views, but I do sometimes post more personal things at this blog, and that is why I choose to be sort of anonymous. I get your point however.

        • JamieHX

          People could lose their jobs by posting on this site or anywhere else online. Their safety and well-being could also be severely compromised. It would surprise me if any site would insist on commenters using real/full names.

          • Thomas Mercier

            You make being accountable for your own actions sound like a bad thing. Please elaborate why someone shouldn’t be held accountable.

          • He didn’t say they shouldn’t be accountable. He said there’s a danger in posting with a name. He’s right. And, as I said, there’s just no evidence to show that using a real name makes any significant improvement in the quality of comments.

            [I should add that one problematic aspect of NOT real names is when the username is, itself, offensive. ]

      • Mike Worcester

        //I do agree, though, that a name makes it easier to establish a more human connection

        Fair point. So from now on what you see, this is me 🙂

      • MrE85

        Once again, for the record, MrE85 is Robert Moffitt. Hello, fellow humans.

  • mnboy67

    Kudos to you Bob for allowing this forum for (we hope) healthy discussion about many diverse topics. I for one look to this space as a place where sincere, thoughtful, and sometimes bullish exchanges are allowed to occur in hopes that it makes us better because of it.

  • KTN

    As an occasional poo flinger, I am guilty to throwing out the one line zinger here, which while I think are pithy and clever, are actually just annoying. Bob, I appreciate all that you do with this site, and in that regard, I will fling no longer.

  • dave

    My personal rules: Speak in reasons for conclusions, not conclusions. Don’t use labels, they all just mean I LIKE or I DON’T LIKE anyway.

    Give logic so that the next person can say WHY they hold a view. I don’t want them to say “well Dave said so, so you should buy it too.”

    Insults just don’t persuade and 1/2 the nation isn’t really dumb or evil anyway.

    I enjoy hearing from the other side, I already know how my side thinks. Sometimes there are aspects I haven’t fully thought out.

    To be 100% correct on a subject, use 20/20 hindsight 🙂

  • kevins

    I don’t blame you a bit for slicing the cable, interfering with the WIFI or listening in on and hanging up on those community phone calls we used to have back in the day (remember rotary dial?). My wife moderates for a blog on FirstRead, or Newsline, or Newsvine or whatever it is..I consider them all to be electrons cast into the dark of the universe. This blog however….keep it real, keep it clean. Congrats.

  • Bob Sinclair

    “Simply, I need to be convinced that your comment is meant to inform and convince, rather than insult and inflame.” So does this mean we can’t pun-ish others on this blog?

  • MikeB

    Thank you

  • Rob

    Excellent! Danke, Bob C.

  • Khatti

    Okay, I’m going to test the new policy, here goes: make dueling legal again; achieve political moderation through attrition.

    • Rob

      Super-soakers only.

  • Will

    I respect the idea of a constructive conversation the comments.

    Is there a line with name calling that we can clearly draw? I’ve had people tell me using the term Democrat Party is offensive, I’ve called it that when I was a Democrat and I don’t see that as offensive; I can try to use the term Democratic Party to be safe. Also, I see some derogatory terms used against Trump, like T.Rump…things like that happen constantly, is that okay?

    We should try to use respect for one another even when we disagree.

    • Messages with clearly intended derogatory names will be deleted. See the NYT article for examples.

  • Jack

    This is the only blog I comment on. Why? because I know that is moderated and won’t spin out of control with personal attacks.

    As for anonymity, using your given name works really well if you have a common name. For those with unique names, not so well.

    And yes, Bob has deleted at least one of my comments. I totally agree with that decision.

    Thank you Bob for having a safe place to have an informed discussion.

  • Jerry

    Have you considered crow-sourcing moderation through a system like Civil Comments? The local newspaper where I went to grad school switched to Civil about a year ago. Here’s their article about the transition in case you’re interested:

    • I don’t have anything to do with the site architecture. I have to use what they give me.

      • Jerry

        Bummer! There’s bureaucracy making work efficient again :/

  • Barton

    I went to read the NYTs piece on comments. Thanks for that. I have commented on articles there with a bit of frequency (mainly the stuff in the Food or Book section though). So, this helped explain why some comments were getting posted at a faster rate than in the past.

    I am glad that (for now) you are keeping the comments open here. I learn so much from the fellow readers, and when I have asked for insight here, I have found it provided from (nearly) all sides.

    Not sure my response actually adds to anything, or presents a significant enough personal opinion/position to avoid deleting, but I do want to say how much I enjoy the News Cut items and the discussions that follow them. And they are discussions, they aren’t one-shot and gone: there is dialogue and it is usually (more than not) constructive. I love that.