In the little tag line at the end of this column, I always ask readers to let me know if there are any issues they’d like to see addressed in future pieces.
And over the last five years, one question has surfaced more than any other: Why, oh why, when we require names and hometowns with letters to the editor in the Times, do we allow anonymous comments on stories on our website at gloucestertimes.com? Indeed, three of these columns over the years — one each in 2010, 2011 and 2012 — have addressed that very issue.
The idea was that the online comments could broaden the discussion on local stories, and give readers the chance to respond and react to letters to the editor with more immediacy. We also recognize that many people just aren’t comfortable speaking up and attaching their name to their views. Some may be fearful of retribution on their jobs or in their neighborhoods; others may simply like to add their views, but to do so without the kind of scrutiny they might draw if they had to use their real names.
But while many anonymous commenters have added thoughtful and valuable comments to the stories and adhered to our rules against personal attacks, others, quite simply, have not.
So, beginning sometime Monday, gloucestertimes.com will no longer accept anonymous comments. Those who wish to post on our website via the Disqus.com platform will be required to register under their true names.
Why, you might ask, is your community’s newspaper now doing that?
One basic reason is that moderating and dealing with the comments has simply become unmanageable. Despite the many thoughtful comments, far too many posters have used the online threads to spew vitriol, bigotry, cheap shots and juvenile taunts, no matter how hard we’ve tried to keep the conversation civil.