Yes, it’s true.
Some of you who received an email from us will already know this, and some may have noticed the change yourselves.
Comments are back.
There are a few things we need to explain about this, not the least of which is how we’re going to make sure we create a safe environment for real, constructive community dialogue.
But first, let’s talk about why this is happening now.
Social media is changing
As social media becomes less and less a place where Canadians can find out what’s going on in their communities through the journalism produced by newsrooms like the one at Sudbury.com, we think it makes a lot of sense to bring back commenting to the place where local news gets broken in the first place. Meta continues to block Canadians from seeing news article links posted to Facebook as a response to the Canadian government’s (seriously flawed) new media law, which means it’s far more difficult for anyone in Greater Sudbury to discuss the news online.
That’s where we think a carefully moderated comments section can play a role. We want our readers to be able to engage in thoughtful and meaningful conversation about the events and issues our newsroom covers every day.
It’s important to note that what we will not tolerate is a toxic space, where only the loudest and most obnoxious voices are heard. We want those of you who may not have felt comfortable commenting in the past (here and elsewhere), to feel you can share your thoughts and insights on Sudbury.com.
Which brings us to how we’re going to make sure that happens.
One way is through a new feature that we are calling Verified Commenting. Sudbury.com commenters who meet our criteria (and continue to promote a respectful dialogue) will receive a badge that allows them access to comment directly to the site.
Readers who are not Verified may still comment, but your comments will be manually moderated before appearing under a story.
Those of you with previous Sudbury.com reader accounts that met the Verified Commenting criteria have already been invited by email. If you think you qualify and would like to apply, you can fill out this form.
Along with this, will be strict moderation. Our team is ready to flag users whose posts don’t promote a meaningful, thoughtful discussion, and to remove access altogether for any user whose posts are actively toxic (including those whose accounts have been Verified).
We won’t tolerate name-calling, personal attacks, trolling or veiled prejudice. Users whose posts are derogatory, defamatory or discriminatory should expect to be permanently and unceremoniously relieved of their commenting privileges by our moderators.
Where will readers be able to comment?
There will be plenty of opportunities to comment on the news of the day, but some types of stories will not include comment sections.
We have said it before: As much as we think coverage of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people is a critical part of the work our journalists do, those reading reader comments on those stories have historically found themselves awash in a stream of hurtfulness and ignorance.
So comments aren’t coming back on those stories.
We have had a similar experience with coverage of other marginalized groups, so those stories will also appear without comment sections, nor will they appear on police briefs or court coverage.
As we have said before, we don’t expect everyone to agree, nor do we expect all comments to be ‘positive’ or uplifting. What we do expect is that comments will add to a thoughtful, respectful dialogue.