This weekend, The Journal New's online site, LoHud.com, informed its readers it would no longer be allowing anonymous comments. Here is a link to that article. Essentially, LoHud concluded that anonymous comments do not work. They do not lead to a civil dialogue among community members. They even cited the fact that the same person often comments under different names in the same article.
I wrote two posts about anonymous comments, linked here and here. I do not allow anonymous comments on this blog. I encourage comments from anyone who wants to post, just not under the anonymous tag. It is my strong belief that every community, including ours, should have an open and continuous dialogue about the issues it faces. Anonymous comments do not contribute to that dialogue for the most part. I recognize that there may be reasons why you would want to keep separate your professional and private lives, but, for the significant majority who have nothing to hide, associating your name to a comment leads to civil dialogue.
It is worth reposting this link from one of my earlier posts. In it Jeffrey Weiss does a terrific job explaining the pitfalls he encountered moderating anonymous comments and why his newspaper blog switched to signed comments.
I am asked occasionally how I, as a member of the CCSD Board of Ed, could not put much credence in anonymous comments in local blogs. Putting aside any content in the comments, how do I know that the person commenting even resides in the CCSD? How do I know that folks aren't posting multiple times under different tags in order to make it seem as if what their point of view is more prevalent than it actually is, essentially, having conversations with themselves in the comment section? If the posts are edited or moderated, how do I know if comments made are even getting posted? If all comments are not posted as written, am I relying on the biases of the person doing the moderating to determine what it is I do and do not see?
John Hatcher on Poynter.org brings up a very good point. He writes, for you, "the reader, knowing who I am helps you decide both if you want to spend your time reading what I have to say and whether you think I know what I’m talking about. You want to know if I have credibility." For me, it is important to consider the source when evaluating the value of a comment or statement. It goes to expertise and credibility.
A byproduct of disallowing anonymous posts means there is less need for moderation in terms of checking comments before posting. It would allow for moderation to be done after the post, thus allowing for posting on a real-time basis and essentially creating an actual community dialogue.
As for the tone and civility of anonymous comments, that is for a different post. I happen to come from a point of view that appreciates civility and a collegial tone even if I disagree with what is being written. I know there are a lot of ways to provide constructive criticism, to argue against ideas and to disagree in general and still remain respectful and civil. After all, aren't we all neighbors?
Good on you LoHud.com (Gannet) for recognizing that civil discourse is more apt to occur without anonymous posting.