Readers, comments, blogs and other headaches

I find myself spending more and more time dealing with the time-consuming task of administration, Spammers attempt to flood our comments and blogs with ads and self-serving crap, some readers push the limits of civility in both the comments and blog sections and 9 out of every 10 readers who attempt to register to post comments and/or blogs give a phony email address or hide behind anonymous, free email accounts.

Sometimes, I wonder if it’s worth all the hassle.

Capitol Hill Blue is not the only news web site that struggles with this problem. Feedback from readers has become a boom and a boondoggle for web sites. Some news sites have eliminated reader comments or gone to a moderated system that requires an editor approval before comments are published. Some require commenters to use their real names. Some just give up.

My new blog moderator quit Sunday. He couldn’t handle the load of dealing with the spammers and troublemakers. I can understand his frustration. I find both the blogs and the comments have become time-eating headaches that require constant monitoring. Some of our discussions on stories and columns become invective-hurling diatribes dominating by a few posters. Several long-time readers have told me they can’t stomach the tone of some of the debates. Some of our readers carry on intelligent discussions. Other, sadly, do not.

I’m not sure where to go here folks. Capitol Hill Blue is not a blog. It’s not a discussion forum. It’s a news web site. Our job here is to report the news from both sides of the political spectrum. I look back at our readership over the years and I find that Blue had more visitors when we published the news on the news side, without comments from readers, and left the discussion to our ReaderRant forum where rules of civility are enforced and posts are moderated. Maybe the answer lies in going back to that format. I don’t know.

I don’t know. I’m not sure where to go with this but I do know that we cannot go on like this. I’m going to think about this over the Thanksgiving holiday and make a decision by Dec. 1. If I see some evidence between now and then that folks debate rationally I may leave things as they are.

I’m open to suggestions. I’m willing to listen to ideas for keeping all this going but if people sit on their butts and say nothing or just offer the opinion that “nothing is broken, so don’t fix it,” I will have to make a decision.