The Times frequently hears from readers regarding online comments -- those on articles on latimes.com or on Times blogs.
The dialogue between readers and the newspaper is still evolving, and the hope is that the conversation online will continue to improve. Recent changes to the commenting system are intended to help that along.
In late April, The Times adopted a system of unmoderated comments on latimes.com articles. As the memo announcing the change explained, comments are “scrubbed against a word filter, which will block an extensive list of vulgarities.” The memo warned, however, that the system was not foolproof and that inappropriate language was bound to slip by the filter. Users were encouraged to police the system by flagging offensive comments with the “Report Abuse” button. Two reports of abuse will automatically remove a comment and flag it for review by an editor.
The new system is designed to provide a better forum for debate, said Martin Beck, reader engagement editor. “By allowing real-time discussion, we are aiming to enable actual conversations about our journalism,” Beck said. “And if it gets out of hand, we are depending on our readers to help identify wrongdoers.”
Blogs were excluded from this system; all blog comments are still moderated by journalists in the newsroom.
Some readers are confused by the different systems. Others have technical issues with trying to post. Yet others want to report an inappropriate comment but can’t figure out how to.
Here are answers to some recent reader e-mails regarding comments:
You have a pretty abusive rant attached as a comment to the article regarding testimony on safety and malfunctions aboard the Deepwater Horizon. A line in your Comments section suggests reporting abusive comments, but a link to do so is not readily apparent.
To reach the screen with the “Report Abuse” button, you must first click “View Comments” in the gray Comments header that appears below each article. That brings up a full screen of comments, each of which has a “Report Abuse” button next to it.
This step is more evident on a post that has a lot of comments. The article page displays only the three most recent comments, so if the Comments header shows that there are actually 17, a reader is more likely to click “View Comments” to see the rest of them.
However, if there are only one or two comments, it is less intuitive to click “View Comments,” because you’re already looking at them. Editors say they will make this step clearer in the Discussion FAQs.