Comments welcome, but let’s be respectful

A recent caller to The Garden Island said she was concerned with our online comments on stories, columns and letters to the editor. Many, she said, were too negative. Too critical. Too nasty. And by publishing them, we were spreading negativity and, in a way, encouraging these people to continue such behavior. Why, she asked, do you allow those comments online?

Good question, one that’s been asked many times. As it’s a new year, let’s chat briefly about our online comments and how they work. First, our one paragraph when commenting offers this guideline:

“By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.”

That’s it. That’s not asking a lot. Of course, “civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks” does leave some degree of subjectivity. What’s civil and in good taste to one may be offensive and unreasonable to another. What’s a personal attack to one is merely an objective commentary to another.

The goal of our online comments is, as it states, to encourage insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints. Discussion is good. Different viewpoints are good. We should be willing to listen to other viewpoints and disagree if we want to — and disagree in a way that is respectful. It doesn’t have to be mean-spirited. We don’t have to beat the other person up with a barrage of insults. We don’t have to “win” the argument.

All that said, the comments submitted on stories, columns and letters are reviewed by TGI staffers. The majority are approved. Perhaps that is where our recent caller would balk. She expressed an opinion that we approve too many negative comments. While we do deny some comments that are clearly nothing more than personal attacks — that include profanity, that are completely off-topic, that are filled with anger — we don’t want to muffle the discussion. We want to let people have their voice. We believe it provides a look at what people are thinking about issues. It gives us some insight, too, as to other perspectives to consider when covering a news story. A vibrant comments thread can promote positive public debate.

Anonymous comments continue to be an annoyance for many people. Why are they allowed? Some argue if people want to comment, they should give their real name, not some online moniker. Others will argue if you ban anonymous comments, you’ll lose many of those who comment. We do our best to watch out for trolls, folks who are doing nothing more than trying to stir things up with crazy comments and all sorts of allegations.

We might note that some newspapers have gotten away from allowing comments on stories. Just too nasty. Not worth the trouble. Too many angry people sounding off. One recent column in the Seattle Times generated such vitriol toward the columnist, the paper shutdown the thread.

TGI staffers have taken beatings in online comments. Some of those comments are nothing more than childish insults. “You suck, TGI!” “We hate you!” “What a rag!” Some will comment that this view is stupid. Some of the criticisms of our work are justified. We should be held to a higher level of accountability. We have learned from some of the comments on stories, and we have improved our efforts. Journalists do need thick skin, but even then, some say the negative comments posted online wear on them.

A few years ago, the Washington Post got rid of the comments section here’s what they had to say:

“In part, our decision was based on science. Researchers have found that when readers are exposed to uncivil, negative comments at the end of articles, they trust the content of the pieces less. (Scientists dubbed this the “nasty effect.”) A study by the Atlantic found that negative comments accompanying a news article caused readers to hold the article in lower esteem. In an increasingly competitive media environment, websites can ill afford to have their content and brands tarnished in this way.”

We are not looking to get rid of the comments section. We think it has value. We believe most of the commenters provide sound and responsible insight that is beneficial to community discussion and we welcome their input (though we wish they would write letters to the editor with their names and towns and phone numbers).

But, there are also many haters. Many who are negative. Many who criticize. Many who have nothing positive to say. Still, we don’t want to shut them out of the discussion because, while they are negative, it doesn’t mean their viewpoint on an issue is wrong. In some cases, they are justified in being upset.

Going into 2019, we don’t expect all commenters to be nice and polite. We don’t expect all commenters to be kind. That’s not reality. But we do ask you to be respectful. We do ask for common courtesy. We don’t believe that’s too much to ask, and we hope you don’t, either.

By the way, have a great 2019!

  1. LTEreader January 4, 2019 8:48 am Reply

    “Anonymous comments continue to be an annoyance for many people.”

    What I don’t understand > IF the comments are such an annoyance, then why do those bothered by them read them? They’re at the bottom of the page = easy to skip over and move on to the next story. Positive or negative everyone has an opinion, and personally I enjoy reading them daily > even when I disagree. I can’t imagine being annoyed enough to actually call and complain. Many of us do appreciate the opportunity to speak our minds, so thank you for that.

  2. Anon January 4, 2019 9:40 am Reply

    Thank you for your subtly rebutted attack on the “hysterical female” who called your office to discreetly offer her feeling of concern for your online comments on stories, columns and letters to the editor.
    Of course you don’t understand her thoughts. You prove this by publicly humiliating her about a private conversation that you and she had.
    While you do not see the offensiveness in the articles, comments, columns and letters to the editor, she does. She has a right to her feelings and they are justified. Your belittling her is bigoted, narrow-minded and chauvinistic and you point out that more newspapers take her point of view than yours such as the Washington Post, which you quoted them and the study by the Atlantic that point out the negative effects. Clearly, basing this on math you are outnumbered in your opinion.
    As author Harper Lee’s character Atticus Finch stated, “”You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view..until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”.

    1. Pete Antonson January 4, 2019 2:10 pm Reply

      Anon, you put hysterical female in quotation marks; but, such a description does not appear anywhere in this essay. It comes from you. In fact, TGI doesn’t attach anything “demeaning” (again, your description) to the reporting of said phone call. A person can’t be “publicly humiliated” (again, your description) unless they are identified. They were not. They simply reported a common point of view and then produced a thoughtful and reflective piece explaining the issue, their management of it, industry trends, and an effective supporting argument. I’m glad your comment was published because it is the actual, and very good example of narrow mindedness and bigotry we should have for comparison!

  3. Debra Kekaualua January 4, 2019 10:07 am Reply

    There are a lot of peoples, like myself, who use their real name, make comments that are on-point to the severe status that we have found ourselves taking part in, like navy go-ahead for land, air and sea war games or “umbilical cord” that the military in california has made with Hawaii-nei. Transplants newbies tourists and just plain too many strangers roosting with their vehicles, no reasonable housing for the generations of kauaians, too many that want our home destroyed by the changes they want to reflect where they hail from, too many who opine and have no clue what they are saying or writing about, too many who blame, are angry, and really have no business making any comment whatsoever. Truth and integrity is always belittled and most do not want to know the future reality of their station or that limitations are being set. This is 2019, the year of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Ive been writing to TGI for fifty years and while i have have had very rude statements made about my writings, as in the recent comments that the caller to TGI finds oppressive, i absolutely have never told a falsehood. I have researched as have thousands of others and know what is and what is not pono. I send much of my comments to the editor via email or request time as is given to others, that dont get published, yet those that do continue to be published are so far “left” that equal time on any subject, especially independence from what is a highly contentious subject. The U.S. unwilling to stand down and return to us, without warfare, what is rightfully ours. Not a couple of billionaire or the implementation of convoy “assisting” the N.S. including a weird sort of martial law, who are in our faces, or the counties and fake politicians that rumble so hard that we have had to address in person, their incorrect council overview, (“cease and desist”), and so that We continue to move upward and forward. We know who we are, and we will prevail with truth and integrity. No amount of money can destroy our momentum. Wake up and smell the lovely Kauai coffee on Crown lands that belongs to us, never those that disagree because they know no better. We are on a roll and very soon that role will be fulfilled, one way or the other.

  4. I saw a Vampire once January 4, 2019 12:28 pm Reply

    Not if I’m smarter than the mayor or county councilmen. I don’t have to respect anyone’s rights. This blogging is a job. It is a job to tell it like it is. They are not qualified, then say it like they are, not qualified.

  5. I saw a Vampire once January 4, 2019 12:48 pm Reply

    You are certainly welcome to take part of your land back Debra. It is your God given right. As you know, certain of the government officials are weak and lame. You know deep in your heart that the land belongs to you. So take it back, and step on whoever is in your way. This includes the county councilmen or women. Please do take back part of what is lost. If you say God gave it to you, then by all means take some back.

  6. ruthann jones January 4, 2019 4:40 pm Reply

    Editor…so why do you continue to publish comments such as Debra K’s…regarding ‘taking someone for a ride in the cane fields’..a euphemism for killing?

  7. Debra Kekaualua January 5, 2019 10:22 am Reply

    Like I said Ruthann, the “euphemism” is all yours. You show your ignorance about our canefields and are dead wrong in your assumptions. I also mentioned that a plan is evolving, “the 90-day Exit strategy”, that will clarify who and what is pono to those that have no idea where they will be moving to. Alcatraz island is a great start in the plan. Even the billionaires have chosen their new nest and have embraced this site with everyone else having duplex housing to the extensive suites that overlook San Francisco Bay. Hanalei Bay has been forever ruined and puff the magic dragon got killed in the stalled storm presented by those pilots who have permanently changed our skies into chem trails that manipulate the weather as well as the DEW, direct energy weaponry used in all of the california “forest fires”. youtube videos are not all conspiracy, they are the new reality. Those that continue to hide their ostrich heads under the line drawn in the sands of cocopalms have a lot to learn and understand. Not america, nor american. Got it? We sure do, and we pray to God everyday, all day for relief from the oppressors.

  8. WestKauai January 6, 2019 4:28 pm Reply

    Debra, I respectfully request that you seek counseling…and that you learn to write a coherent letter…

  9. TGItried January 8, 2019 8:16 pm Reply

    TGI tried the censorship of its readers comments and lost people doing so. Bringing back Anonymous comments and fact checking the comments then posting the comments are for the greater good.

    It was a great injustice when we the people were silenced through censorship because prominent people are shady corps and nonprofits controlled what was said and written on TGI.

    TGI has improved since then so I say with respect, fact check the comments because the corruption on Kauai exists and the exposure is what the people want and need.

    The plantation mentality and the good ol boys and gals club families try to rule Kauai and the State of Hawaii like it’s their kingdom and the people are their sheep.

    Wake the F up people and stand up against these murderers, rapists, child molesters, thieves, nepotism, colluding, manipulating, evil POS’s that think they are above us and are untouchables.

  10. LMat January 11, 2019 9:04 am Reply

    I for one love reading and interacting with people thru the comments. It’s great to get other’s opinions on certain topics. It’s really great to read an intelligent, well thought out and written comment and offer back agreement or disagreement. Healthy debate, for the most part. I’m glad TGI brought back comments on opinion pieces and I hope they continue to leave this area of communication open. I’ve read many comments that I did not agree with and actually found ridiculous, but, that’s life! You’re not going to agree with everyone. Nowadays, everyone is offended by everything. Everyone feels entitled to some recompense for being offended. I offended you? Sorry not sorry. Move on.

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By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.