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On Comments And Civility

You may have noticed that the comments function has been disabled on certain posts both here at Public Eye and elsewhere on the site. Comments are no longer being allowed on any of the stories or posts about Ed Bradley, the longtime CBS News fixture who passed away yesterday morning. Why? Despite hundreds of people who left remembrances and condolences in the comments, there were a handful who insisted on posting remarks considered inappropriate. Mike Sims, director of news and operations at CBSNews.com explained his decision to discontinue comments:
We invite people into our home to engage in lively, diverse discussion. We insist on civility and respect. We will not tolerate defamatory remarks or bigotry. Those who cannot respect these simple rules are not welcome. In this particular case, a few people who could not and would not respect our rules required us to pull the comments area entirely.
You can see a sample of the kinds of remembrances most commenters were leaving in this story. If you're fortunate, you didn't have to read some of the comments that caused all of them to be pulled. News organizations have long been wary of allowing comments on their sites for this exact reason – civility. Normally, the debate over proper conduct takes place in stories revolving around politics, like the Washingtonpost.com dust up with bloggers earlier this year.

Some bloggers don't even allow comments at all because they don't want to have to police them or be associated with something they have little control over. The two-way conversation is increasingly becoming an ingrained part of the media landscape, however, and it's important to set boundaries for these exchanges. The challenge is to find the best ways to continue the conversation despite the best efforts of a few to spoil it.

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