RIP Anonymous Commenters: A Eulogy to the Unnamed

first_imgI’ll lose many friends tomorrow. Or maybe just a few with multiple personalities. It’s hard to tell when I’ve not met them.The Ocean City Daily announces a policy of signed and fully moderated comments effective immediately. That means if you want to comment on a story, you must use your first name and last name — the real ones. The Daily will post only items that are signed, constructive, relevant and interesting.It’s not without a great deal of sadness and ambivalence that I bid farewell to the likes of the immortal “Sam Samstie,” the morbidly obese mock City Council candidate who favored “perfect and cost-free government” and ran a write-in campaign entirely within the confines of online news story comments — lampooning everything and everybody in the city along the way.We’ll miss the anti-establishment “Duffer” and “Beachy Keen,” and “Wyatt,” the “shoobie” with an unrelenting persecution complex. We’ll miss any number of former Ocean City Beach Patrol members conducting petty catfights under pseudonyms.Some of these commenters were among my first loyal readers when I started what turned out to be a three-year experiment in community journalism as editor of the Ocean City Patch.At its best, the online commentary offered a wonderful snapshot of the community. The comments often contained background, insight and perspective that made stories much richer.The measure of Patch’s rapid success as part of the fabric of the community came during coverage of a campaign to allow “Bring Your Own Bottle” restaurants in the dry town. Literally hundreds of comments accompanied each article — the word count of comments exponentially exceeding the actual news coverage. The policy allowing user names made it easy to post quickly and impulsively.There were some wonderfully crazy comments. But over time, anonymity emboldened many commenters (they grew “anonymuscle”). Reasonable readers began to shy away.The crazier trumped the crazy. Then the craziest drove away even the crazier. Until the cast of commenters became very small — offering a mostly dull mix of repetitive bile and drivel.And so the new Ocean City Daily turns to an innovative model for its online comments policy: newspaper letters to the editor.Newspaper editors do something novel — they read letters before they publish them. They choose which ones are most interesting. They edit them and they confirm the identities of authors.So it’s back to the future for the Daily.  We take pride in our hard-earned credibility as a reliable daily news source for Ocean City, and our new comments policy will reflect that.The policy is designed to encourage and welcome the return of a wide variety of commenters. We invite you to share your opinion. And we certainly ask you to comment here on our new comment policy. Doug Bergen Editor OCNJ DAILY COMMENTS POLICYCommenters must use real first and last name.Commenters must include real email for potential verification of the same.We encourage brevity for both effectiveness and the demands of space.We encourage a sense of humor.We encourage any comment that takes issue with our news coverage.We encourage any comment that takes issue with a well-established position — informed dissent being a foundation of any worthy public forum.We encourage relevance — stay on topic.We won’t allow profanityWe won’t allow personal attacksWe won’t allow accusations against individualsWe won’t allow you to use copyrighted materialWe make no promise to post any commentlast_img

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