trolls

Comments with real content: More about that bride and the man with her father's heart

Comments with real content: More about that bride and the man with her father's heart

Longtime readers of this site know that the evolving GetReligionista team has been in the blogging business for a dozen years, which means that we have seen quite a few trends in social media come and go through the years. Yes, I confess that I once thought Twitter was a joke.

Early in the digital revolution, one of the elements of the new medium that excited people the most was the potential for solid, even insightful material emerging through comments from readers, comments that might even result in constructive dialogue between journalists and readers. Then along came the trolls and may online editors lost faith.

Comments have always been a part of what we do here at GetReligion, even though some of the most important comments come in the form of private emails from journalists who, for various reasons, cannot leave public posts on the site.

The problem, from Day 1, has been that the vast majority of comments on our posts consist of commentary -- often very blunt -- about religious and political issues mentioned in our posts, as opposed to commentary about the pros and cons of how mainstream journalists cover these issues. As folks here have stressed many times: This is not a religion news blog. GetReligion is a blog focusing on the good and bad in news media efforts to cover religion news.

Thus, we send about 75 percent of all of the comments we receive into the digital trash. In journalism lingo, we spike them. Frankly, we wish that more people would take the time to read our commenting policy, which began long ago with a memo from GetReligion co-founder Doug LeBlanc.

Want to read it?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Pope Francis gently tiptoes into the dangerous territory of those digital trolls

Pope Francis gently tiptoes into the dangerous territory of those digital trolls

Long ago, during one of the Key West, Fla., "Faith Angle" conferences run by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (click here for amazing transcripts), journalist and digital maven Steven Waldman made an interesting comment about online trolls. The goal of those gatherings was to inspire dialogues between scholars and mainstream reporters about religion and the news. Needless to say, changes caused by the Internet were a big part of that.

Waldman is best known for his work as senior advisor to the chair of the Federal Communications Commission and, before that, as the co-founder and CEO of Beliefnet.com. Especially in its early years, Beliefnet was precisely the kind of place where journalists were, for better or for worse, banging their heads on the emerging realities of Internet life.

Everyone learned pretty fast that things could get really hairy (troll image, of course) when you threw open the comments pages on sites focusing on religion, media, politics, social issues, etc. Clearly there had to be some rules. One of the rules Waldman described to me that night in Key West came up during this week's "Crossroads" podcast chat with host Todd Wilken. Click here to check that out.

Anyway, Waldman said that one of the key rules Beliefnet staffers used when encountering fierce opinions in the comments pages went something like this. You could leave a comment that said something like: "According to the beliefs of my faith, I think that what you are saying is wrong and, thus, you could end up going to hell." That was strong stuff, but acceptable. Otherwise, the site's editors would have been saying that believers in traditional forms of some major religions -- Islam and Christianity, for starters -- would be banned from talking about core elements of their faith.

But here is what believers were NOT allowed to say in the comments pages:

Please respect our Commenting Policy