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Why Cabin Radio’s approach to comments is changing


From now on, Cabin Radio is replacing comments on most Facebook posts with letters to the editor. We’re also setting up a group dedicated to discussion of news in the NWT.

If you came to this page from a closed comment section, we invite you to write to us at comment@cabinradio.ca instead. Your message will be considered for publication on our website.

You can also head to a new Facebook group we’ve created – on a trial basis – and share your views there.

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Why can’t I comment on Facebook?

We’re making this move because many of our readers said they’d like to try it.

Last week, we explained that moderating Facebook comments – many of them abusive in nature – was becoming an increasingly impossible and draining task for our small team. We presented several options for the future and asked our audience for feedback.

Those options were:

  1. Close all comments in future
  2. Keep comments but adopt a stricter policy
  3. Move to a system of letters to the editor, with comments closed

Through Facebook and by email we received 177 detailed responses (and many more shorter replies) from readers regarding what we should do. Of the detailed responses, 38 selected Option 1 and 81 selected Option 3. In all, 119 of the 177 respondents wanted us to close comments. Most shorter replies favoured Option 3.

Among other detailed responses, 28 people preferred Option 2, 16 favoured comments remaining open with no moderation at all, and 14 people proposed alternatives that kept comments open in some shape or form.

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The clear majority of respondents said it was time to close the comments, but a significant number of readers told us they would miss the comments and value the insights they gain from reading them.

Why does this approach work?

Closing comments on the page and introducing a correspondence system – with a weekly published summary of messages we get – means you’ll no longer have to worry about reading abusive, hateful comments or misinformation on our Facebook page.

That’s really important. It helps us to turn our page into a safe space. There may still be occasions on which a post has comments turned on, but the workload will be small enough that we can pay much closer attention to moderation. (We’ll remove posts in open comments sections about unrelated matters.)

Letters to the editor may not take off as a concept. We may not get any! If we do, the chances are they will be carefully thought-out, constructive contributions. We’re excited to see what happens.

Creating a public group linked from our page preserves the ability of our most dedicated readers to discuss our work (and other news reports). It’ll also allow people to stop in and sample that discussion without having it forced upon them on our page.

We’ll keep that group going as a limited-time trial. If moderating the group still poses a challenge to the mental health and time management of our staff, we’ll close it, but we’re optimistic that people will see it as a valued forum for constructive discussion.

If you don’t want to see any comments, stay on our page. If you want the discussion, head to the group, which is opt-in. That way, you get to choose the experience you have.

We welcome submissions from volunteers who would like to help moderate the group, though we reserve the right to select who those moderators are and alter the moderator line-up at our discretion (email us if you’re interested). The group contains a brief policy that sets out what we expect of group members and we’ll expect our moderators to quickly remove trolls or abusive posters from the group, creating as constructive an environment as they can without stifling differing opinions that are thoughtfully and well-meaningly expressed.

We hope this approach gives people who are tired of Facebook comments the option to avoid them, while fostering a useful discussion forum for readers who want that to continue.

Though this change is indefinite – it’s not an experiment, in the sense that we haven’t set an end date – we will continually review the way it’s working and we’re open to making further changes if our audience or staff tell us, over time, that the new system isn’t helping. We hope everyone gives it a chance and we thank the dozens and dozens of people who took time to provide detailed feedback.

Thanks for reading our work and supporting what we do.

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