Staff Editorial: Turbulent history leads to comment policy change

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By Jennifer Luxton/ Visual Editor

Readers will now only be able to make online comments on articles that state an opinion; which will include all articles written in the opinion page (including this one), reviews made in the Arts & Entertainment section and Sports columns. This is for a slew of reasons, which we will get to in a moment.

If you want us to publish a letter to the editor, please read our “updated comment policy.”

We are an unbiased publication that aims to offer local, campus news that is well-researched and informative. All articles that are not in the Opinion section or stated to be a review should only include facts and interviews with experts on the specific topic.

To maintain the integrity of News, Features and other factually based articles, we will no longer allow comments because the vast majority of commenters do not add to the discussion, but rather detract.

Comments observed in recent semesters have repeatedly done this through their tone, showing a lack of respect and dog-whistle racism (a phrase for veiled attacks against individuals of certain race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality).

Tone 

The tone in comments is often rude, uninformative and hostile.

Specifically in News articles, comments should be more focused on the structure and the inclusiveness or lack thereof. Biased feelings should not be part of someone’s comment because contrary to opinion or other sections, news always strive to be objective. Additionally, comments attacking what the author wrote about frequently take issue with facts within the article without stating their source.

Showing a lack of respect

We strive to reflect the diversity of our institution through our staff and readers and in doing so respect and invite many differing opinions. In turn, we also expect the same courtesy for our news stories and the subjects therein.

Unfortunately, many comments do not afford that respect and have generally devolved into denigration of staff and sources and more importantly, entire campus organizations. This is detrimental to our school. Discussion of politics, religion, gender, and culture always carry a certain amount of heated debate and opinions, but without showing respect for each other, we can never grow as human beings and thus learn from one another.

Dog-whistle racism

The groups most affected on campus are the ones that cater to our campus diversity. Bigotry and zealotry are not conducive to meaningful discussion. It’s bad enough when discrimination is overt and obvious but the nature of these subversive comments is especially nefarious.

 

Decision Process

This decision was heavily debated, and not unanimous.

Removing comments entirely was originally proposed, but we feel it is unfair for us to have a platform to state our opinions and critiques and not afford the same to you.

We also considered a policy similar to what Reddit uses, where “liking” a comment moves it further up the page and “disliking” it moves it down or collapses it so readers have to click it to view it. However, we already have the “like” feature and do not have enough readers for the “dislike” feature to work.

Another issue we have is that commenters rarely, if ever, identify themselves. Forcing commenters to identify themselves was our original goal, hoping it would discourage the iniquitous comments we previously discussed.

Currently, you are only able to comment if you register with our website. However, there is no way to force users to use their real names.

Connecting comments with Facebook seemed to be the best option. But we voted against this because Facebook would then own our content and all archived comments would be eliminated.

While evaluating other news organizations and their policies on comments, we saw the general vitriol that accompanied a large variety of their stories. The best organizations seemed to curb this by keeping commenting to a minimum or having sufficient resources to moderate comments. We look to these examples as a basis for our own change.

Specific publication examples: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, CNN.

We know this policy change may not be popular. We will be evaluating and evolving the new policy over time and we encourage you to email the editor in chief any comments or suggestions that will help with this transition.

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Disclaimer: The Daily Sundial is not responsible for comments posted on dailysundial.com. In accordance with the Communications Decency Act of 1996 the Sundial is not liable for the content of comments. By commenting, all persons posting on dailysundial.com have agreed to our comment policy. If a comment does not abide by the comment policy the Sundial reserves the right to delete comments without warning. The Daily Sundial advises persons commenting not to abuse their First Amendment rights, and to avoid comments of hate speech or encouraging violence.

  • David the small-L libertarian

    I decided to read all the comments on an article that was published last week in the Los Angeles Times about the Fontana school police department adding rifles to its arsenal.  The comments were at least as “disrespectful” and “hostile” as many of those found on the Sundial site in the last few years.

    The fact that the LA Times editors can handle the “hateful,” “destructive,” and “offensive” comments and the Sundial editors cannot is rather telling.

  • Jon Soto

    This is disgraceful. Censoring diversity of opinion is an un-American act. This isn’t China. Is there an example of a comment that had dog-whistle racism, racially offensive, or in any way violated the discourse on an article? We English majors have a saying: no evidence, no arguement. We cannot have free and honest discourse in society if we resort to censoring opinions that which we do not agree with.

  • http://twitter.com/perspixx perspixx

    So you don’t like people pointing out when your articles are biased, when your facts are wrong and when the article is poorly-written. We get it. You’re insecure in your beliefs. And you should be! The claim that your news section tries to be objective is laughable; the Sundial has never been objective. You are what you are… own it, and don’t resort to censorship to feel better about yourselves.

    • VladLenin

      Oh, they’re clear-eyed about what they are(Marxists).

      Censorship allows them to suppress opposing thought. Not that they’d consider an opposing view, but out of concern that an impressionable young person might be exposed to truth.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KS6F5ADTFMSPZJNTLR7QFI4DDQ Cleveland Steamers

     “To maintain the integrity of News, Features and other factually based
    articles, we will no longer allow comments because the vast majority of
    commenters do not add to the discussion, but rather detract.”

    Translation: Disagree with our opinion and hurt our feelings.

    I will be first to admit that I go after the right wing losers on here. But I have seen some good points of view on here even if I don’t agree.

    • David the small-L libertarian

       Are all of the right-wingers losers or just those who don’t make “good points”?  Since you’ve “gone after” me (and retreated), I’m just trying to figure out where I stand.  ;)

  • David the small-L libertarian

    It seems to me that the Sundial is a bit thin-skinned.  I’ve looked at the Comments sections of some of the majors, including the LA Times and the Daily News, and found plenty that a left-leaning editor might find in violation of the new “standards.”

    So, am I one of the reasons for the new standards?  Does someone at the Sundial think I’m guilty of “dog-whistle racism’?  Maybe a writer didn’t like my “tone”?  I will likely never know.  I’ve regretted a couple of things I’ve written over the years, but who hasn’t?  Some time back I was invited by a Sundial editor to be a contributor.  I declined.

    Thinking back, I’ve flagged a few comments to bring to the Sundial’s attention.  But maybe the Sundial regrets publishing pieces like this one:  Examining the role blow jobs play in relationships

    I think that a lively, largely-uncensored Comments section is just what the Sundial needs to help foster the free exchange of ideas at CSUN.  It’ll be a shame to lose it.  I’ll be far less inclined to take the time and effort to write something that may never make it to the little screen.

  • VladLenin

    What is the relation between Freedom of thought and of speech?

    “It might be thought that it is easier to suppress freedom of speech than of thought, that however much we are constrained by authorities who simply terrorize people into public verbal acquiescence, people can still, in the solitude and privacy of their own heads, think what they want. Well, perhaps it is easier in that a person terrorized into silence might none the less think the thoughts that he is too frightened to articulate aloud. Nevertheless someone brought up not under conditions of freedom but under the regime of terror, and teherfore never able either to share with another his thoughts on the regime or to gain access to the thoughts of another (for they also have been suppressed), will be limited in his ability to engage in independent thinking on this matter. There is a question of how good his independent thinking would be even if he were capable of such activity, for in the absence of feedback from others who have had the opportunity to reflect critically upon those thoughts he lacks a proper standard by which to measure the quality of his own thinking.

    By such means we find out not only what others think of our ideas, but what we think of them also.”

    ~ Alexander Broade – The Scottish Enlightenment

  • VladLenin

    We are an unbiased publication

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    Nonsense. You are a Leftist-spewing rag. If your articles were unbiased, they would not have been met with alternate or opposing points-of-view.

    Comments observed in recent semesters have repeatedly done this through their tone, showing a lack of respect and dog-whistle racism (a phrase for veiled attacks against individuals of certain race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality).

    Lack of respect and dog-whistle racism? Let me clarify what you mean: Views inconsisent with your Leftist ideology.

    You’ve pushed Chicano/a activism.
    You’ve pushed the Black Panthers.
    You’ve pushed the radical Homosexual agenda.
    You’ve pushed a Communist/Collectivist agenda.
    You’ve pushed an anti-Christian, anti-Semitic agenda.

    This decision was heavily debated, and not unanimous.

    They call this Tyranny of the Majority, and is the primary reason that America was Founded as a Republic and not a Democracy.

    The First Amendment died today, at the Sundial 

    Tyrannies ALWAYS begin by silencing opposing thought. Controlling “thought” is a tenet of Marxism. See: Pravda

    The fact is, you could not combat the challenges(facts) being presented in the opinions expressed by those, not controlled by your editorial board.  PATHETIC!

    • Michelangelo Landgrave

      They do invite people with opposing views to be part of their news team or even submit Op-Eds. They may be leftist, but if they are it isn’t because they’re actively surpressing other viewpoints. They simply work in an area whose demographics are overwhelming in the left.

    • BurgerLess

      I’m feeling everything you said Vlad. The Sundial Editorial staff has sunk to a new low.

  • Victor Khaze

    As a member this wonderful new media landscape and as a CSUN student, I am ashamed of the Sundial for this shift in policy. The chief difference between online news and traditional print (apart from opportunity of reach) is its ability to bridge the gap between those consuming it through direct communication. In other words, it is the interactive-ness of this format that enriches it, regardless of how the audience interacts. 
    What you have done is removed that key element and, subsequently, put much of the Sundial’s website on the same track to obsolescence as print news media itself. And for what? “To maintain the integrity” of your articles? Forgive me my ignorance, but I wasn’t aware that comments could change the content of the articles themselves. As far as I could tell, the mere delineation between the article and the comments seemed to serve as an adequate barrier between the two parts. 
    Ah, but perhaps I’m too hasty to condemn those who sided with this move towards censorshi- oops, I mean, content management (I wouldn’t want to sound rude). Certainly, comments that are bigoted, racist, and overzealous (not to condemn the concept of “zeal”, mind you) are often times uncomfortable. But removing those comments from a discussion, in effect pretending those ideas don’t exist, might be less helpful than you’d think. Those ideas are linked to people and sometimes all it takes is a “Not cool, man” from a fellow human being to cause a shift in their ideas. If not that then, at the very least, the existence of those comments provides you with a degree of insight into how prevalent those misguided ideas may be. And what better way is there for a journalist to ascertain the zeitgeist of the people than from the people themselves? 
    Now, about tone and respectfulness. If you couldn’t tell, the tone of this comment is openly hostile and condescending toward those who voted for this change. That is because I want whoever reads the above text to understand how repulsed and disappointed I feel. Everyone is entitled a certain amount of respect to start with just by being people. The level of respect they earn or lose is based on their opinions, accomplishments, and behavior. For example, I have more respect for the people wandering campus collecting cans and bottles than for the religious zealots that visit shouting that “gays will burn in hell”. And levels of perceived respectability are a personal thing. I could wager that there is at least one person on campus that looks at the religious zealot and thinks “Right on, man”. Should a certain level discourse be maintained? Of course. Should anyone be prevented from calling a racist idiot a racist idiot? Of course not. Should any special protection be afforded to those who work on the Sundial staff? Certainly not. You are journalists either by trade or in training. If you are doing hard journalism, then the facts are your comfort in this world. Get them right and represent them properly and you can safely ignore the idiots. Get them wrong and you deserve what’s coming to you. And if you are doing Op-Ed, you should be ecstatic that people are joining in the discussion you’ve framed.

    TL;DR This change in policy is, effectively, throwing out the baby with the bath water. In your attempt to silence comments you don’t like you have silenced those who contribute in a meaningful manner.