Some people seem to have gotten the impression from my last post that we were definitely NOT going to do anything to change our comment policies. That is not necessarily the case.
The fact is that how we handle our comments is a continual source of discussion internally. Over the past year we've tried a number of new things, both technologically (such as adding the "report abuse" link) and organizationally (how/when/who monitors the comments, etc.). We may do more. I can't say what exactly we will do, but we will continue to engage the problem.
But it seems to me that it's a bigger problem than just us and just our website. There are thousands of others at other sites dealing with the same problems. And I think the problems posed by the comments are not isolated. They reveal something endemic in our society.
As such, the Register may someday fix the comments, but that won't necessarily fix anything more than that. We can play a part in a broader solution, to be sure, but it's got to come from a lot more people than just us. One of the threads running through President Obama's inaugual address yesterday was a call to action. Real change doesn't occur until we all throw our hats in the ring together. The problems we have, the economic crisis, global warming, terrorism, are not going to be solved by one man in a corner. The comments on sites like sanduskyregister.com all over the country point to a social problem, and that problem is connected to those problems that make it into campaign speeches, but it is even less under the control of any politician.
In a society unprecedented in its level of connectivity, we have become so remarkably isolated that "flaming" is no longer the behavior of preschool children, it has become a hobby for an astonishingly large number of adults. That's a failure of society -- us. And it's gonna take us to change it.
To paraphrase our new president, we have to be the ones we've been waiting for.
So the Sandusky Register will continue to work on this problem in every way we can. We may have some big changes coming very soon. However, say we employed what I think of as the "nuclear option" and required all our comments to be approved by the our staffers BEFORE they are posted? The comments would be totally palatable to everyone in the community. But I'm concerned that then all we'd accomplish is to shove the problem back in the dark where it can quietly fester.