Letter from the editor: A comment on comments

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A few changes to our commenting system debut

By Mike McGann, Facebook

You may have noticed a few changes here at The Times over the past few months, from a new mobile and tablet-friendly design to this weekend’s evolution to a new commenting system — faced on the Facebook platform.

Like many other publishers, large and small, we’ve wrestled with the balance between both having a true back and forth with our readers and the small percentage of folks who abuse that privilege. We’ve resisted some calls to end comments on stories and columns, in part, because we value your opinion and input (and a number of times, readers have been able to point out small errors in stories and captions — allowing us to quickly correct them).

But at times, the comments have been abusive and even borderline libelous — anonymous posters with more venom than true conversation, yet unwilling to post under their own names.

Ultimately, it became obvious — again, as it has to so many other Web publishers — that we needed to take action. As we did not want to take the route of NPR Radio and some other outlets of banning comments entirely, we wanted to find something whole lot more like the old school signed letter to the editor. Seeing that large sites such as Politico and FiveThirtyEight were able to still have brisk, engaging conversations without anonymous troll attacks, we looked into the technology they were using and adopted it for use on our sites.

Granted, there’s no perfect solution — we had a number of good, insightful commenters who probably won’t comment any more if they have to use their names. And yes, people can still say mean or inappropriate things, but this time will have their names attached to it (which means most folks will think before posting).

On the other hand, now, if you happen to be signed in to your Facebook account in your browser, you can immediately comment without signing in again and be notified via Facebook if someone responds to your comment — and the conversational tools are much improved.

We think it’s the right move at this time.

As the media landscape continues to evolve, we’re working to evolve with it. This month, we begin technical testing of our video production facilities — with the first project being a monthly, half-hour talk show, The Talk of Chester County, which we hope will feature lively talk with interesting newsmakers from around the county, starting later this fall. In 2017, we hope to extend our new technical abilities to live streaming video and bring you live video coverage of select events. To do these things, of course, we depend on advertiser support — so if your business (or if someone you know has such a business) would like to partner with us to help expand video coverage in Chester County, drop us a line.

As a small, locally owned media outlet, we continue to appreciate hearing from you — your ideas, suggestions and criticisms. We know we’re far from perfect (although continuing to improve every day) and take your input very seriously.

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