Following up on the previous post about Miami allowing online readers to post comments freely, here's a report from the semi-free-speech front:
Six weeks ago, sacbee.com gave readers the ability to comment on every news story.
The response has been a surprise, at least to me. In the first month, we got, round numbers, 4,000 comments on 3,000 stories from 1,000 users. The comments themselves got about 75,000 page views.
Talk-radio topics draw the big numbers. When the Sacramento Kings' coach got fired, there were more than 200 posts. A police officer shooting and killing a teen at a local shopping center drew nearly as many. "Serious" topics don't do as well, but they do business too.
We monitor the comments for libel, filth, hate and such, and reject those that don't pass. We do not edit them.
There have been challenges in these first weeks, mostly due to the unexpected volume. That and trying to find exactly where our line of acceptance should fall. This is a new connection with our readers, and it doesn't seem right that the letters-to-the-editor standards, while fine there, should be applied here. Some words and tone that wouldn't make the newspaper ought to be OK here. The default setting needs to be YES.
To help foster that freedom, comments are teased from the bottom of a story -- but the comments themselves live on a separate page. (We had some internal discussion about that before launch, with the Internet-generation people arguing story and comments should appear together. I think we made the right call.)
The system, built by in-house tech wizards, is tied in with InSite registration. It has more features than I've outlined, and other features we haven't enabled, such as using the Miami free-speech model. Nando is considering adoption of the system. Tech details upon request.
-- Ralph Frattura