The bottom of my Sunday column mentions looming changes in way way commenters can post remarks at the bottom of The Star's online articles. To wit:
The days of anonymous commenting at AnnistonStar.com are rapidly coming to a close. We are currently testing commenting software that would require website commenters to post their first and last names alongside their comments.
This is part of a move to eliminate some of the worst behavior in story comments. In recent months, our editors have had their hands full cleaning up comments that fail to comply with our rules. In short, those rules are no personal attacks, no name-calling and comments must stay on topic.
The subject of online commenting and anonymity has roiled the digital space in recent years. Many publications, particularly newspapers, have pulled back from the free-for-all that was online commenting when the web first became popular. Over time, The Star’s newsroom and others across the country have come to see the commenting section of a website needs more accountability and safeguarding lest it turn into a ghetto of bitterness, personal attacks and angry and offensive language.
The plan is to continue to apply our current rules with a few more added, namely better identification of the person posting the comments. Think of it as the “letter to the editor rule.” Printed submissions to Speak Out must follow our guidelines for style as well as include first and last name, plus hometown. The letters we print are often sharp in their rhetoric, yet they carry the credibility that the writer was willing to attach his or her name and hometown to the opinions expressed. Very soon we intend to apply the same standard to online comments. Expect more details in coming weeks.