Everything one day comes to an end

Matt Westerhold
Nov 25, 2013

The Register's digital editor, Jason Werling, started a blog last week at sanduskyregister.com asking readers what changes they want to see at the news website.

“I would like to see having to log in to comment,” the second reader who commented at the blog said.

That's been debated for years, weighing the value of the interaction against the wild west-like attitude that some commenters have displayed. There were other readers at the blog who argued for keeping comments anonymous.

There have been times in the last five years when prejudices, biases and blatant racism showed up in the comments section at sanduskyregister.com in a way that was, at first, hard to comprehend.

Nearly five decades after the civil rights movement exposed the blatant racism of public officials in Montgomery, Ala., with their police dogs attacking children and their fire hoses turned on peaceful protesters, that same attitude was still apparent, right here on the North Coast, in the Register's comment section.

Unlike Montgomery police Chief (commissioner of public safety) Bull Conner, however, this modern-day racism was cloaked in the anonymity the comments section allowed. At times, we were forced to simply turn off the comments feature at the website; other times we allowed it to occur.

The anonymity allowed the sources of this racism to be hidden, but the question was should the Register hide that from the community by not allowing anonymous commenting. There is some value in knowing that some in our community are as racist today as Bull Conner was then.

The civil rights movement succeeded in an important way: It made that kind of racism go underground. A certain number of local residents still had those same attitudes, but expressing them openly is no longer an option. Too many people have become enlightened and will not tolerate it without responding.

There's nothing courageous about racist, anonymous commenting and then slinking away with a superior attitude. But racism is not the only problem with allowing anonymous commenting, and it's not the only thing about sanduskyregister.com that will be changing in 2014.

Comments drive traffic to the website, which is an important component for every newspaper developing new business models for digital products. The Sandusky Register's website enjoys robust traffic. There likely are few, if any, community newspapers anywhere that wouldn't gladly trade up for our traffic numbers.

In recent months the Register has changed its digital distribution of newspaper content at the website. Previously, stories were routinely “truncated,” or shortened considerably, and used as a tease for readers to purchase the daily print edition or the newspaper e-edition, an electronic replica of the newspaper available at the website.

Lately, however, we've been developing a “full distribution” model in which news stories are placed at the website in full without requiring readers to purchase the content. In addition, we've added other features, columns and content from the print edition into the “stream” of stories that get posted at the website.

The free, full-distribution services are temporary, however, in preparation for changes at sanduskyregister.com that will be made next year.

In 2014, Sandusky Newspapers Inc., which owns the Register and seven other newspapers, will make a major capital investment upgrading our technology and introducing a digital membership service.

There will still be content every day that readers can access at no charge, but the meat of our labors will be reserved for readers who pay us for our services. The specifics how this will work are still being reviewed, but how readers access news stories, and how they can comment at the website, will be changing.

Werling's blog asking readers what they want at the website is an integral part of that development process and there were many good suggestions from readers that will be incorporated in the changes that will be made.

Werling plans to continue getting feedback from readers each week at his blog, and reporting back on the developments and incorporating every good idea in the development. Go to the “Blogs” section at the homepage to share your thoughts at Werling's blog. 

Comments

Contango

Re: "There likely are few, if any, community newspapers anywhere that wouldn't gladly trade up for our traffic numbers."

And the number of commenters and interested readers of same aren't helping to cause those "hits" and didn't lead in turn to producing those inflated "numbers"?

Good luck with your new intended business model.

Licorice Schtick

The e-paper is unwieldy and not worth the price. It would be much better in HTML. I don't know why that's so hard. The New York Times has the look and feel of a Real Paper but is easy to navigate. Limited free access. You do need to "register" (no pun intended) but it's pretty seamless. Home subscribers get free access. Didn't the SR once do that?

http://www.nytimes.com/

cmit43

Im being thankful.. Google is paying 75$/hour! Just work for few hours & spend more time with friends and family. On sunday I bought themselves a Alfa Romeo from having made $5637 this month. its the best-job Ive ever had.It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it out http://goo.gl/f6e95V

Contango

Re: "Montgomery, Ala.,"

Easy for moralistic Yankees to point fingers at the South and leave Boston and other Northern centers of racism out of the equation.

For one: Under Reconstruction southern states were required to allow blacks to vote, while northern ones like Ohio still practiced discrimination.

Sam

The public will pay for content that has is presented in a fair and unbiased manner. I agree racism is still a problem that society must address. Unfortunately sometimes racism is used as a diversion to take attention away from other issues or attempt to quell justifiable criticism.

Unassumer

I will not pay for online access for any newspaper. Although I like to know what's going on and to read and comment on stories, I think it should be free. I can live without it though and won't miss the stupid comments that appear with some stories.

moonbeam

How about having the e-paper online before 7:15am ?

deertracker

I won't pay for the online edition because I pay for the print edition. I am glad that changes are going to be made. Some of the comments were and still are just awful. The worst ones often had nothing to do with race. People are racist and honestly that is their right and no blog will change that. It is what it is. However, at times it really did seem as if the SR supported some of these views simply by not moderating the blog very well. It's time for a change!

BabyMomma

You're right. Ban Deertracker!! His comments and views are awful!

Darkhorse

Looks like someone went on vacation this week and forgot to put someone in charge of putting up the e-paper every morning? Hello, is someone paying attention? There is no e-paper this morning.

oldpirate

I don't care for the shell game the paper plays with comments. Moving them around to match them up with later comments which changes the meaning of the post. The paper surely steers the conversation the way they want to.

Licorice Schtick

They don't do that.

thinkagain

Childlike naivety.

starryeyes83

Yes they do , pay attention to the time stamps. They did mine last week. I posted a comment at 11:30 at night and it was on there when I went to bed. The next morning my same comment was moved and a totally different time (morning was added) It also seemed some were missing . ..I'm so sure it was just a "glich" (ahem).

the unsilent majority's picture
the unsilent ma...

I think you will lose alot of the "traffic" you enjoy now by charging. I stopped buying your hard copy newspaper years ago because the price was high for a sunday paper thinner than a human hair. That decision didnt even take into acount the lack luster quality and poor delivery service. In todays age there are just to many other sources to get information from. Like the previous poster said I also enjoy reading the comments for a good chuckle but I dont enjoy it enough to be fed the majority of the nonsence you guys come up with.

tk

Sounds like the old "bait and switch" thing. Get people reading the online content for free, then when they are hooked, start charging them. No, thanks.

Stop It

Imagine that. The newspaper that prints and e-prints the racism now wants to charge for it. Everyone from this area knows the layout of Sandtown.

Blame the e-readership that your paper isn't making enough money because of the economy.

Can't wait to play...:)

MrSandusky

So the anonymous racist comments increase the web traffic, which in turn feeds into your business plan. Interesting...

I wonder how some of the advertisers feel knowing that the driving force behind the advertising pricing is racist fighting in the comments.

Matt Westerhold's picture
Matt Westerhold

Thanks Mr. Sandusky, but you lack any understanding here and misinterpreted what is said in the column. Feel free to call me at 419-609-5866 if you, or anyone else, has questions about this.  

Good 2 B Me

Matt, aren't you the one that dropped the "N-Bomb" amongst other racist comments in an article not too long ago?

Matt Westerhold's picture
Matt Westerhold

Perhaps you're taking that out of context. The word was not used in a racist way. Re-read that column here

Good 2 B Me

Sorry Matt, but the "N-word" cannot be used in any way other than a racist way. It is the most racist word in the English Language. In or out of context, that word is brutal, even if it is listed in a story or given as an example.

BabyMomma

You must not watch South Park. Or The Chappelle Show. Or Blazing Saddles. It can be very funny. It can also be VERY nasty. It may be good 2 be you, but you are awfully narrow-minded. And you're white I assume?

Good 2 B Me

What does my color have to do with the use of the "N" word? There is no place for that word in our current world. It is a hatefilled word from a hatefilled past. It needs to be left there instead of being glorified by any movies, shows, actors, rappers or anyone else.

deertracker

You are wrong Good! Stay in your lane please!

Yellow Snow

Saying "The N-Word" is like typing MF. Both have the same meaning as the original words. How did "The N-word" and MF become acceptable?

Good 2 B Me

Exactly. Yet even here these people are defending it and saying that it is ok to use the "N" word. People like that have made it socially acceptable somehow.

BabyMomma

The word existed before it was ever a "racist" word.

SamAdams

I, too, find the racist comments distasteful. But the bottom line is that if you don't support speech with which you disagree, you don't support free speech. Besides, hearing such views out in the open means you can COUNTER such views out in the open. A little education for the obviously ignorant can't be such a bad thing, can it?

I don't CONDONE those racist comments, but there's something I find far more distasteful (not to mention threatening), and that's censoring everything somebody (and it doesn't matter who "somebody" is) finds disgusting or disagreeable. Many might be unpleasantly surprised at just how much some thin-skinned PC king or queen will deem "offensive!"

The Register is clearly about to attempt to regulate speech. Since it's speech disseminated courtesy of its own website gives them the ability and, unfortunately, the right to do so. That a news outlet would consider such a thing, however, is appalling. If the coming changes include a loss of anonymity and the accompanying censorship, then I won't play. Neither, I suspect, will a lot of other people.

Some food for thought for the Register powers that be: In an age when free speech is punished, can a free press (such as it is these days) be far behind?

Stop It

+1^^^

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