The Editor's Desk

Fresno Bee changes story commenting system

One of the many functions of a newspaper is to be a forum for a community conversation on the important events of the day. We do this in letters to the editor, in news stories and through our online commenting system. Unfortunately, a large number of online comments consist of name-calling and sniping, and don't contribute to the community conversation.

Many readers have told me they have left our online forums because of the vitriolic tone of the comments. Most of the violators post anonymously. It's a lot easier to fire off caustic comments if your real name isn't attached to them. We have looked for ways to solve this problem, including more aggressive moderation of comments.

After struggling with this issue for years, we have decided to make a change to our commenting system beginning Sunday, Sept. 15. We are joining with other McClatchy newspapers in requiring that commenters log in using a Facebook account.

Most people with Facebook accounts use their real names, and we believe the tone of comments will improve if commenters aren't anonymous. Our goal is to have a community forum where there is a vigorous and respectful debate of the issues.

We know this change will not solve the problem completely, but we believe it will be a vast improvement over the current commenting system. There may be fewer commenters on stories, letters, editorials and columns, but we believe they will offer our readers a more civilized conversation. That should draw in readers who left these forums because of the tone of the comments.

For more information about this change, read our Frequently Asked Questions.