A community guidelines FAQ

As anyone who has commented on a Globe and Mail story probably knows, we have a policy on what kinds of comments are appropriate and which ones are removed, but I confess that we haven’t always done a great job of communicating that policy clearly and consistently to our readers — in part because our policy has been evolving, and continues to do so (which I would argue is a good thing).

So why and how are comments on Globe stories taken down? Why doesn’t the Globe require commenters to use their real names? Why do some comments simply disappear, while others are replaced by a message that says they weren’t “consistent with our guidelines?” Do Globe reporters ever respond to comments, and under what conditions?

These are the kinds of questions that our Community Guidelines FAQ was developed to answer. It also deals with how we approach other forms of community engagement, including live discussions (which we do using software from Toronto’s Cover It Live) and forums, which we are in the process of rolling out on our Globe Investor site, and hopefully elsewhere.

In coming up with our policies, we have looked at the way many other media outlets handle comments and community — including sites such as The Guardian (whose policies are here), the CBC and the New York Times — as well as non-media communities like Metafilter and Slashdot. Like all of those sites, we want to allow our readers to comment on issues they feel strongly about, but at the same time we want to maintain a civil tone that encourages dialogue instead of partisan attacks.

We are probably never going to achieve that balance completely, or to everyone’s satisfaction. But we are trying hard to do so, because we know that many of you look to the Globe as a place where you can discuss important topics, and we want to encourage others to do so.

The FAQ is a work in progress, so please let me know what you think, either by posting a comment here or by reaching me at @mathewi on Twitter or via email at [email protected].

Bloggers, trust, MSM and correction fluid

Megan Garber has a thoughtful and all-around excellent piece at the Columbia Journalism Review that looks at how mainstream media and several blogs handled a story about Justice Antonin Scalia and comments he made about a landmark anti-segregation ruling:

In the teeming world of the Web — one defined not merely by seemingly endless variety on the part of news outlets, but also by, consequently, seemingly endless choice among news consumers — one of the rarest and therefore most valuable commodities is trust.

That tenuous good — a function of authority, accuracy, and audience attention — is a limited resource largely because one of its key components — attention — is itself finite. Each audience member has only a limited amount of attention he or she can give to news stories. And that limited resource, in turn, leads to a tension between plenty — the variety and redundancy of news outlets available to audiences — and scarcity. With the end result being, among other things, that no longer is reader loyalty something that can be safely assumed, in the old ‘well, where else are they going to go for their news?’ model. In our world of media plenty, no longer is the cultivation of trust one component of the journalistic equation; it is a key component. It is, in many ways, the component: If people doubt the accuracy of the journalism you produce — or, worse, if they don’t pay attention to it in the first place — then what, really, is the point?

For bloggers, whose journalism evolved with the Web, the visceral instinct toward trust — the implicit recognition of its primacy—is coded, so to speak, into their journalistic DNA. Mainstream outlets, on the other hand — outlets which, up to now, have been able to take their readership largely for granted — don’t generally share that instinct. They’ve always been interested in cultivating trust, of course — trust builds audiences, which builds both revenue and journalistic impact—but their relationship with trust has been more detached. They’ve generally understood trust as something to be ‘earned’…but not as something that is implicitly, and existentially, necessary. While they’ve had to work to maintain reader trust…they haven’t had to work too hard at it. Because, again: where else are the readers going to go?

As my friend Craig Newmark likes to say: “Trust is the new black.”

Posted via web from mathewingram’s posterous

Are independent bloggers an endangered species?

Micah Sifry talks about how Atrios and Digby see the blogosphere evolving, and the rise of corporate blog entities.

Is political blogging no longer a place for the individual, crusading voice? Do you have to be part of a group blog, and ideally backed by a big media property, to flourish in the national political blogosphere in the U.S.? Two powerful indie-bloggers, the pseudonymous Digby and the once-pseudonymous Atrios (Duncan Black), posted links back to my Friday post about Technorati’s new top blogs metric, that in essence expressed nostalgia for those good ‘ol days when all it took was a PC and a strong point of view to make it in the Big Blogcity.

One of the interesting elements in all this is how it’s a self-reinforcing problem (or a vicious circle), because of the linking policy at “big media” outlets.

It’s worth paying closer attention to Digby’s point about who links to whom. In essence, she is saying that when it comes to the link economy, indie bloggers are more generous than Big Media types, who she says mainly just link to each others. And I think she’s right; the linking patterns discerned by our friends at Linkfluence show that in general, the blogs at big newspapers sites are far less likely to link to “regular” bloggers than the reverse. And this isn’t a matter of one type of blogger (the indie), simply “leeching” content from the content generators, since Big Media bloggers are just as often doing their own opinionizing as much as they are reporting real news.

Whether we like it or not, this may well be a serious trend, one that doesn’t bode well for independent bloggers.

Posted via web from mathewingram’s posterous

Why media outlets want Facebook Connect

Want to know why so many media outlets are excited about the idea of using Facebook Connect? Staci Kramer at PaidContent provides some clues in her interview with Huffington Post CEO Eric Hippeau:

At my request, HuffPo supplied some details: Facebook referral traffic is up 48 percent since the launch—and the already-heavy volume of comments jumped to 2.2 million from 1.7 million in July. Fifteen percent of HuffPo comments now come from Facebook. In September, Facebook referrals accounted for 3.5 million visits, up 190 percent from June and 500 percent from January. Those numbers continue to build, according to HuffPo’s internal stats.

read the rest at paidcontent.org

Posted via web from mathewingram’s posterous

First Read: Follow the Breadcrumbs : CJR

An excellent post at Columbia Journalism Review by Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. She’s responding to the Downie/Schudson report on The Reconstruction of American Journalism, which you can download as a PDF here or read online here:

In looking to reconstruct journalism, I’d start not by asking how do we get money for what we’ve always done. I’d ask instead: How do we provide something worth paying for? As a long-time news consumer, I have recoiled at much of what we are rendering as “journalism.”

What if it’s not just the business model of journalism that is broken? What if the way we are doing our journalism is broken, too? How are some of the new media makers trying to fix that?

Highly recommended.

Posted via web from mathewingram’s posterous

In defence of newspapers and serendipity

One of the things that Clay Shirky mentioned in the panel with Andrew Keen that I moderated at Ryerson University recently (my post with video here, tweet-stream here and live-blog here) was an idea that he has also written about before on his blog: namely, that one of the principal functions of a newspaper was to aggregate completely unrelated things, primarily because the newspaper company (and its advertisers) had to appeal to the widest possible group of potential readers, and couldn’t possibly know in advance which parts of the paper they were likely to be most interested in. As Clay described it in a recent talk he gave at Harvard:

“The idea that someone who is doing a crossword puzzle may also want news about the coup in Honduras or how the Lakers are doing — it doesn’t make any sense. It’s never made any sense, in terms of what the user wants. It’s what print is capable of as a bundle.”

In my desperate attempt to justify the continued existence of newspapers, I asked Clay whether that aggregation didn’t serve some kind of purpose, but he argued that it did not — that it was simply a holdover from the industrial process by which papers were created and distributed. But is it? I know that we increasingly believe that “if the news is important, it will find me” (I’m actually the number one result in Google for that phrase) and that aggregation of whatever kind we require can be performed by our friends, by service like Techmeme and Tweetmeme, by RSS feed readers, by Twitter, and so on. Heck, I use all of those things and have come to rely on them.

But are they enough? Is there a purpose in aggregating the horoscope and the weather and the news about the coup in Tegucigalpa? I think there is, and I think newspapers do a pretty good job of it.

Continue reading “In defence of newspapers and serendipity”

Video: My panel with Shirky and Keen

As some of you may know, I was asked by the folks at Ryerson University’s Journalism School (one of my alma maters) to host/moderate a panel on “What’s Next For News” last week, as a kickoff for the school’s “Wordstock” event, and it was my pleasure to welcome Clay Shirky — author of Here Comes Everybody and of a number of great think pieces about the future of media — and Andrew Keen, notorious Web 2.0 gadfly and cultural critic, and author of The Cult of the Amateur. We had some audio difficulties, and I rambled on a bit during my intro (as I often tend to do) but once we got into the questions we had some great back-and-forth on topics such as transparency and objectivity, the rise of Twitter, the similarities between what’s happening to media now and the Gutenberg revolution, and many others. The entire event was videotaped, and I’ve embedded part one here. You can find the other three parts at J-source.ca.