Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Editor column: Civility key to productive discussions at sltrib.com

By Lisa Carricaburu

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Apr 18 2014 05:56 pm • Last Updated Apr 19 2014 07:32 pm

Salt Lake Tribune Digital Director Kevin Winters Morriss took an unusual measure this past week.

In consultation with Editor and Publisher Terry Orme and myself, Morriss shut down comments on the first sltrib.com story about Megan Huntsman, the Utah woman alleged to have murdered six infants she gave birth to from 1996 to 2006.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The Tribune is committed to providing an open forum to readers who follow basic rules in commenting on stories at sltrib.com.

But some commenters so blatantly violated those rules of basic civility Monday that we had little choice other than to end the discussion for all commenters.

By 9 a.m. Monday, readers had flagged more than 350 comments on the story — and counting — as violating our rules. Some frequent commenters asked us to act, and we did — decisively.

We took the rare action seriously because our goal remains to encourage productive conversation on issues important to Utahns as well as those visiting sltrib.com from outside the state.

But we rely on commenters to follow our rules, which clearly state that "we will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks."

In addition, "flagrant or repeat violators will be banned," according to our policy, which is spelled out in detail at http://www.sltrib.com/csp/cms/sites/sltrib/pages/aboutcomments.csp.

We’re proponents of free speech and know enabling commenters to exercise that fundamental First Amendment right at times will mean some will say things many find objectionable or obnoxious. Far too often, comment threads devolve into attacks on religion or politics that have nothing to do with the stories to which they’re attached.

Our goal is to encourage meaningful, on-topic discussion of issues our stories raise, and civility is key.

story continues below
story continues below

Morriss reviewed all flagged comments on Monday’s Huntsman story and said he and others on his team deleted hundreds of them.

"It’s not a step we ever want to take but we felt the debate had taken a turn that was in complete violation of our policy," Morriss said.

A number of commenters — either in the thread or in emails — approved of the action.

Kevin Legg lamented that even in a comment thread on a Monday blog post explaining why comments were shut down on the Huntsman story, his fellow commenters allowed the discussion to deteriorate into a debate over "left vs. right."

"I post under my name and I’d discuss my position on any subject of interest in person the same way I do in comments," Legg wrote. "The subject of dead children is neither right or left, it’s wrong and sad. Dragging the comments into ideology does nothing to express the real gravity of the story as it relates to our humanity."

Hear, hear. Let’s hope Morriss’ action this past week remains a rare event.

Lisa Carricaburu is managing editor. Reach her at lisac@sltrib.com or on Twitter: @lcarricaburu.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.