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Monday, 28 March 2011

The Editor: Prosecutor, Defendant, Jury and Judge.

Those of us who have our own Weblog, Facebook page, and Twitter on the social media networks do so for a variety of reasons; too big a subject to expand upon at this time.

What ever the reasons, there is the belief by the writer that the readers will actually find the contents of the articles interesting, and some of them may wish to add a comment to the posting especially when a point of view has been expressed. If, particularly in the case of a weblog or Facebook page, there isn't the belief then there would be no point in having the 'comment' facility active, available, for the readers to use.

As the author of the blog or page there is a degree of anticipation waiting to be notified of a comment to a post. When the notification arrives there is an element of satisfaction, joy, elation and trepidation.

The apprehension is twofold; will the message of the comment be in favour or in disagreement of your opinion; will the comment be acceptable for publication. In the first instance there isn't anything you can do about it, not everyone will agree with you. In the later case this is where you change from Author to Editor.

As the Editor the role changes in the 'Moderation Court' to Prosecutor, Defendant, Jury and Judge in deciding what comments are allowed to be published. The decision has to be taken.

When acting as Editor on my weblog and Facebook page for the substantial majority of comments there isn't any difficulty, even when opinions are given that are contrary to mine or other comment makers. It's this difference of opinion that helps to make the blog or page interesting to read. Unfortunately not all Editors of sites seem to understand this point and I believe some will use the delete button to protect their opinions if they perceive a threat. I experienced and witnessed this recently.

For me there can be no question that the small number of comments which contain vulgar, obscene, language or acronyms or letter substitution to make a crude expression seem polite are deleted. As will comments which appear to be libellous, vindictive, discriminatory.

It is the very small minority that are left that can cause concern, to delete of not to delete! It could be for example that the comment is getting off the original subject, is becoming too personal towards an individual, or is based on facts that are generally known to be invalid. There are without doubt other grey areas which need a decision. The problem is that ultimately the decision is the Editor's alone. More often than not the question of whether the deletion was the correct action is never answered; but sometimes it is.

On a recent article on this weblog a comment was made that I decided, after some considerable thought, should not be published because of one of these grey areas. Fortunately I was able to communicate my reason to the writer hoping that that person would understand. It was nice to receive the following reply. “You are absolutely right! After I wrote that comment, I ....... wished that I hadn't commented ......! Hope you take this in good spirits, as I understand that I was out of bounds! ................ and thank you for correcting me!

I mention this not to seek praise for my editorial decisions to delete, but to show that to explain the reason behind them, when possible, can turn a potential negative situation into a positive one. I sincerely believe that the author of the axed comment will continue to read my pages and will be comfortable to post other comments in the future.

The Editor, usually the originator, of a social media page has the responsibility of the final decision of what comments appears on that page, but I believe that that authority should not be abused to the detriment of the readers and contributors of comments. Being Prosecutor, Defendant, Jury and Judge in the 'Moderation Court' requires fairness and honesty.

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