We want to know our readers better. We want to hear what you think about key issues in our community, headlines in the news and our coverage. We value your views and insight.
And we want to help ensure your comments are legitimate, fair and civil -- both on the printed pages of the Bradenton Herald, and on Bradenton.com.
For years, we have printed Letters to the Editor only after verifying the authors and publishing their names. But we've had an online system that required only an email address from commenters to sound off. Too often, they are using an alias to interrupt those online conversations with name-calling and abusive attacks.
Starting mid-day Sunday, we no longer will allow anonymous commenters on Bradenton.com. To join our discussions, you will need to log in using a Facebook account.
Most people use their real identities on Facebook, and many of you already have accounts. Or you can open a free account at Facebook.com.
Is this a perfect solution? It's not without its challenges, but it's the best solution we've found after company-wide research. MiamiHerald.com has been the test site for McClatchy's experiment with Facebook commenting for several months. Editors there have reported a sharp improvement in the quality of conversation on their staff's stories, columns and blogs. And their online traffic has remained solid.
We know some users will still try using fake identities. We'll monitor that, and continue to ask for your help in flagging commenters who violate the rules of civil engagement.
We think Bradenton.com visitors will embrace this change. For months, many of you have asked for a system that holds commenters accountable (and even some of those requests come via a moniker!).
Here's a sampling:
"Perhaps if everyone must post under their actual name, the posts will become more civil."
"It is amazing what people will post when they are anonymous. ... At least the BH requires you to provide that information even if, under unusual circumstances, they withhold it, when you write a letter to the editor. These discussions would look very different with real names attached to the posts, don't you think?"
"I would really like to see the Bradenton Herald monitor the comments better than they do. It is easy to sling mud behind an anonymous name. Actually that is cowardly."
We agree with you. By
requiring Facebook commenting, we hope to eliminate the trolls and create the virtual town hall we have always envisioned.
And we know you sometimes don't want to risk sharing your identity. We respect that, and we still welcome anonymous tips. Just send me an email, or contact us using the links at the top of Bradenton.com.
We're looking forward to healthy conversations that lead to new ideas and effective change in our community.
Joan Krauter, Herald executive editor, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 2000. Follow her @JeKrauter on Twitter.