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September 13, 2013
Fighting Trolls on Digital Newspapers
 
In the march of the news media to new terrain, The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram is looking to Facebook to erase a distinction between the print and digital forms — how readers sign letters to the editor. In print, it's your name or no publication. But on digital, notes executive editor Jim Witt, "comment threads too often devolve into a cesspool of name-calling." Hence, Star-Telegram readers now will have to log into Facebook to use the paper's commenting system.

"In signed letters for our print editions," Witt explains, "writers make their points using reasoned and usually reasonable arguments. But online, comment threads too often devolve into a cesspool of name-calling. On some stories, we are forced to turn off the commenting feature because the language becomes too offensive." Let the trolls, in other words, stay under their bridges.  

Any resort that teaches on-line readers manners is welcome in preserving the news media in as many outlets — online and off — as possible. PR needs effective ways to reach people, and newspapers will always be one of its core outlets, providing they survive as modes of responsible expression. We thank Next Communications for bringing the Ft. Worth move to our attention.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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