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Changes to comments, links on latimes.com

The Times has instituted two changes to latimes.com, involving comments to online articles and e-commerce links in some articles and blogs. Editor Russ Stanton and Managing Editor/Online Sean Gallagher announced the news to the editorial staff this morning. Here are excerpts from their memo:

Today we are making two key changes to latimes.com.

The first involves moderating reader comments. Our readers are fully embracing the functionality instituted in December that allows comments to be posted on articles, columns, photos and other non-blog coverage. However, the more the volume increases, the more time and resources it takes to moderate comments before publication.

Starting today, we will allow comments from readers who are registered through the new sign-on process (i.e., via Facebook, AOL, MySpace, Google, Yahoo and Twitter) to go live immediately. These will be scrubbed against a word filter, which will block an extensive list of vulgarities. Please be aware, though, that this system will not be foolproof. There are those who will find a way to slip inappropriate comments past the filter. Each comment has a link that allows readers to report abuse. Any comment reported twice will automatically be removed from the site. These hidden comments will be held for review by Times staffers, who will decide whether to republish the comment or keep it off the site. PLEASE NOTE: We will continue to moderate all comments on our blogs.

This transition will be a challenging one. There will be praise and intelligent conversation, but also barbs and outright hostility. As unfettered as the discussions may be, they are worth hosting – and cultivating. The fact is, readers of online news expect to be able to participate. They want to be able to share their opinions and interact with journalists and other readers.

We also can learn from conversations about our journalism. We will be closely monitoring the comment boards and will pass along news tips and other pertinent information. 

Second, we will begin adding e-commerce links in some articles and blog posts today as part of a pilot program.

These post-publication links to sites such as Amazon and TicketNetwork will serve as both a reader service and a revenue opportunity for the company.  During the testing phase, the links will be placed by an e-commerce producer based at the Chicago Tribune, where the program has been underway for about six months.

At no time will a blue editorial link be replaced with an e-commerce link.

Each article or blog post that includes a green link will be appended with the following disclaimer at the foot of the article text or blog post:

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

These links will appear in Health, Image, Food, Travel, Books, Entertainment and Sports articles and photo galleries. They also will appear in the following blogs: 24 Frames, Culture Monster, Hero Complex, Idol Tracker, Pop & Hiss, Show Tracker, Ministry of Gossip, L.A. Unleashed, All the Rage, Brand X, Daily Dish, Jacket Copy, L.A. at Home, Dodgers, Fabulous Forum, Lakers and Outposts.

As part of this pilot program, e-commerce links will not be used in columns and news section articles and blogs.

 
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