ASPEN - Readers will be able to comment on stories on aspentimes.com again starting Friday, after the newspaper spent months facilitating conversations inside and outside the organization on the value of online comments. Those conversations - both with community members and staff - led to the decision to return online comments to the site this week, but only after significant changes.
"This was not an easy decision, but our readers spoke loudly when we pulled away comments last spring, and we thank them for that," said Ryan Slabaugh, editor at The Aspen Times. "They want an online conversation where we can discuss local issues. We will do our best to support these comments as long as our readers keep the online dialogue civil. To make this work, it has to be a partnership between the readers and The Aspen Times."'
Here are the changes readers will see:
• In the old system, readers could post anonymously. This is not the case anymore. Readers who wish to comment must log on to a Facebook account that is active and running.
• Comments used to appear at the bottom of articles. Going forward, comments can be found on a separate tab attached high in the article, to keep comments in a different environment and make them easier to find.
Aspentimes.com removed comments in the spring, drawing national attention inside the industry. One of the reasons comments were pulled was that newsroom staff was spending too much time monitoring them, deleting spam and policing cheap shots by nameless commenters. The other was the overall cost of the comment software. Both issues will be addressed by this change, Slabaugh said. The Los Angeles Times also launched a similar program this year.
Constructive feedback on the new system is welcome. Readers can send feedback on the new comments system to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, you can comment online on this story.