Beginning Wednesday, readers at www.albanyherald.com who post comments will begin using their Facebook accounts to access the online commenting system.
This is a change that we have been considering for some time now. The question as to what way is best for providing a forum for online commenting opportunities is one that has been batted around by newspapers and other media for years.
The primary change for our audience at albanyherald.com will be the fact that comments, beginning Wednesday, will no longer be attributed to a pseudonym.
The ability to post comments anonymously allows posters to engage in name-calling and viciousness while maintaining the ability to distance themselves from responsibility for the statements. Our policy has been to err on the side of allowing comments to stand, but there is constant pushing of the envelope on what is acceptable public discourse and what the commenter can "get away with."
We will, of course, continue to accept anonymous news tips. Those differ in that we never write articles based solely on an anonymous tip. Once a tip is received, a reporter or editor checks into it. The information has to be verified before it is used in an article.
In studying the issue of online commenting, we have determined that using Facebook accounts will have many more advantages than disadvantages. Facebook requires that an account be associated with a real person, which has been shown to result in higher-quality comments. It's easy to call someone an idiot or a jerk if you don't agree with him and no one will find out who you are. If the comment is a reflection of the person posting it, however, more thought goes into the reasons for disagreeing.
The Facebook sign-on will also make it easier for you to share an article or post that you like with your Facebook friends.
In the end, we believe the change will result in a better overall experience.
That doesn't mean there won't be instances where a comment determined to be inappropriate because of language or content has to be removed. Our belief, however, is that these instances will be much less frequent.
We want to continue to be an active site for comments on the news of the day, and we believe this is a necessary step toward that goal. There will be a period of adjustment for commenters, which is why we wanted to make sure we gave notice before the change goes into effect.
It's a big change for us, and not one that we have taken lightly. We believe it is a change for the better.