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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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Some comments on comments ...

- Clearing waters in the reader comment streams - Tim Fitzpatrick, The Salt Lake Tribune

OK. It’s still not the Algonquin Round Table, but the conversations are getting better in the comment streams on sltrib.com.

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It was last July that I asked readers what they thought about the reader comments posted below stories on sltrib.com. The answers were varied, including a few calls to do away with them altogether. But most wanted us to keep the system more or less the way it was, but with more policing.

So in October we launched a new, more aggressive effort to chase away the problem children, that small percentage of commenters who get their thrills by testing everyone else’s tolerance.

Now I’m happy to report that the effort is working. ...

... It’s also a victory for "persistent identity" commenting communities like ours. We allow commenters to choose anonymous screen names, but then we make them persist with those names. We have a few ways to verify that commenters do not have more than one name, and we ban them if they do.

That system combines the freedom of anonymity with the responsibility of reputation. The commenting world may only know your pseudonym, but they will remember you. That has proven a great system for those who want to join the conversation without endangering their jobs or other relationships. ...

- The Post should moderate its comments gently - Patrick B. Pexton, Washington Post Ombudsman

... Online trolls skulk, just waiting to go after unsuspecting commenters with ad hominem attacks, insults, derision or some brickbat hurled just to get a rise out of someone. And organized groups of trollers affiliated with this or that cause pounce at the first sign of heterodoxy.

It’s anonymous, mostly, and people who are banned because they step over The Post’s guidelines come back with other noms de plume the next day. It’s a mess.

Yet I think that in the messiness lies virtue. Online commenting boards are an online speaker’s corner and free-speech release valve. ...



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