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Montana paper modifies comments sections

By Capitol Hill Blue
December 30, 2010

The Great Falls Tribune strives to create and promote discussion in the community, as well as to provide diversity in the way we offer those opportunities.

Readers’ letters are published nearly every day on the Viewpoints page, and our editors’ phone lines are open even outside normal business hours.

Several years ago, the Tribune opened the door to allow online readers to express their opinions — anonymously.

In the intervening years we have watched the often- uncivil discussions, choosing to moderate them with a light hand. The discussions, we opined, were not for the fainthearted, and we frequently allowed them to go beyond what we would print in the
newspaper.

However, when participants crossed the line into obscenity, libel, personal attacks or otherwise irrelevant commentary — and when other readers hit the “Report Abuse” button — we deleted their posts.

In some cases when they persisted in violating the agreed rules, we blocked their participation altogether.

Through all of this, we clung to the hope that civility would win out — that the verbal vandals who inhabit anonymous forums would get tired of lobbing invective grenades and eventually contribute a useful thought.

But, disappointed, we give up.

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