Comments Turned Off

As of 4:15 p.m. ET today, we have shut off comments on this blog indefinitely.

At its inception, the purpose of this blog was to open a dialogue about this site, the events of the day, the journalism of The Washington Post Company and other related issues. Among the things that we knew would be part of that discussion would be the news and opinion coming from the pages of The Washington Post and washingtonpost.com. We knew a lot of that discussion would be critical in nature. And we were fine with that. Great journalism companies need feedback from readers to stay sharp.

But there are things that we said we would not allow, including personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech. Because a significant number of folks who have posted in this blog have refused to follow any of those relatively simple rules, we've decided not to allow comments for the time being. It's a shame that it's come to this. Transparency and reasoned debate are crucial parts of the Web culture, and it's a disappointment to us that we have not been able to maintain a civil conversation, especially about issues that people feel strongly (and differently) about.

We're not giving up on the concept of having a healthy public dialogue with our readers, but this experience shows that we need to think more carefully about how we do it. Any thoughtful feedback on that (or any other issue) is welcome, and you can send it to executive.editor@washingtonpost.com.

Thanks,
Jim Brady
Executive Editor, washingtonpost.com


UPDATE, 7 p.m.: As you might expect, we're getting a ton of e-mail on this, and while I can't answer those e-mails individually, I'll address the two main points being made, that 1) we're afraid of being criticized and, 2) that were no personal attacks, profanity or hate speech in any of the comments.

On the first point, washingtonpost.com has done an awful lot to be as transparent as possible. We've started a ton of blogs, we've linked out to bloggers who are writing (often negatively) about Post content and we've made journalists from The Post and post.com available to answer questions online on a daily basis. So I find it hard to make a case that we're unwilling to be criticized. What we're not willing to do is allow the comments area to turn into a place where it's OK to unleash vicious, name-calling attacks on anyone, whether they are Post reporters, public figures or other commenters. And that's exactly what was happening. That leads into the second complaint. The reason that people were not routinely seeing the problematic posts I mentioned were that we were trying to remove them as fast as we could in order to preserve the reasoned arguments many others were making. We removed hundreds of these posts over the past few days, and it was becoming a significant burden on us to try and keep the comments area free of profanity and name-calling. So we eventually chose to turn off comments until we can come up with a better way to handle situations like this, where we have a significant amount of people who refuse to abide by the rules we set out.

By Jim Brady |  January 19, 2006; 4:22 PM ET  | Category:  Content
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