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Handling online comments QT34


Deciding whether to accept online comments can be a tough decision they can carry a lot of baggage. How to review and verify them? How does refusing to run them affect your forum status?

And that’s only the first decision.

Next come a choice of approving them before posting or posting the then reviewing, which can result in takedowns.

Whatever decision students make, they should not make it lightly. Having enough students to monitor the letters in a timely manner is but one question to be answered.



Student media should accept letters to the editor or online comments from outside the staff to solidify their status as a designated public forum where students make all final decisions of content. This allows their audience to use their voices as well. Question: Should student media enable online comments?

Key points/action: Handling online comments seems to have three options:

  • Review them first and then post
  • Post and then pull down unacceptable ones
  • Don’t accept any comments online at all.

All three work, depending on the mission and policies of your student media.

Stance: We feel there are no quick and easy answers, but plenty of ethical room for discussion and implementation of workable solutions.

Reasoning/suggestions: Within the choices above, your students could:

  • Require authenticated identification of poster before posting
  • Initiate a verification system of the source and his or her information
  • Consider your mission and forum status before students make a decision
  • Decide how much person power and time do you want to devote to authenticating posts?
  • Decide how will your decision fit into existing policies and ethical guidelines?
  • Ensure online and print standards are consistent


Online ethics guidelines for social media

Questions student staffs should discuss before entering the social media environment

Online Comments: Allow Anyone to Post or Monitor and Approve First. An Ethics Lesson, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Online Ethics Guidelines for Student Media, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
A Newsroom Guide for Handling Online Comments, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

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