How Not To Respond To Comments

Pyramids of Cheops. Menai hotel in foregound on left bank of River Nile near Cairo

What is an editorial policy & Should Your Blog Have One?

An editorial policy spells out what sort of coverage can be expected and provides more specific details about how you approach your content. It helps everyone understand why your focus might be on XYZ and not PDQ.

It can be beneficial for dealing with advertisers, guest bloggers and readers in general.

In concept it might offer some assistance with legal matters should they ever arise.

I am not an attorney so I can’t tell you how much or how little help it will provide but I can promise you guidelines are useful, especially when you are dealing with the wild and woolly internet.

There Are Differences Between Writers and Journalists

Sometimes people think that being able to publish online automatically turns them into a journalist. Call it a guess but I suspect Woodward and Bernstein will tell you there is a difference between writers and journalists.

During ten years of blogging I have seen ample examples of this usually in the form of a news story. Many bloggers play fast and loose with fact checking.

I am not saying every journalist is good about this but when you are trained to confirm facts with multiple sources it helps. In concept journalists will follow good journalistic practices and that will help limit your liability.

The Wild West

Sometimes dealing with people online feels a bit like a scene from a Wild West movie. You know the one where a bar fight breaks out and there is complete chaos inside the bar, bullets and fists are flying, bottles and chairs are breaking and you wonder when the hero is going to rescue everyone.

Except the blogosphere isn’t populated by men/women wearing white hats and sometimes you can be inundated with comments from angry commenters and no simple way to handle it.

I am not talking about spammers who offer you to pills that will help parts of your body grow but real people who are leaving angry comments about something you published.

If they aren’t filled with expletives and threats and are on topic you have to decide how to handle them.

The curses and threats are easy to explain. You just tell people you won’t publish that kind of stuff but you can’t deal with everything that way without raising questions.

I can’t give you a list of what will set people off. If you write a post that says Nutella is the greatest spread ever someone will send you a 25,000 word response and demand you publish it.

That is only partially tongue-in-cheek.

What I can say is if you promote your blog as one that competes with the “professionals” you should seriously look into adopting professional standards and having an editorial policy is part of that.

The Wrong Way To Respond To Comments

Some time ago I left a comment on a blog where I asked about how the writer acquired their material. The response I received didn’t answer my question.

Instead the commenter identified themselves as the editor of the publication and assured me the facts were accurate.

I hadn’t asked if the information was true. I asked how it was obtained, if there was an editorial policy and who it covered. When I asked a follow up question I received an automated message saying I had been identified as a spammer.

The non response and the go away you bother me kid response turned what should have been something minor into something bigger or it could have.

I don’t have a horse in this race and I don’t really care about the publication that did this. It is not one I read often or think highly of, needless to say their response didn’t help my impression of them.

But what if I did.

What  would happen if I was truly invested here?

Well it wouldn’t take long to write a post documenting what happened and potentially causing problems for said publication. It wouldn’t be hard to paint a compelling picture making them look bad.

What do you think?

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  1. Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes April 10, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    timbo19731 Hi Tim. I am a fan of active comment sections that ask hard questions in a civil way. I appreciate seeing a dialogue and not a bunch of sycophantic rubbish.

    Sounds like you are too.

  2. timbo19731 April 10, 2014 at 1:18 am

    I will always publish questioning comments Josh if they’re relevant and aren’t abusive!

    By not responding to your comment, that blog just turned away a reader, maybe not an avid reader, but one that bothered to show up from time to time!

    Is it a wise move to do that? I don’t think so.

    The comments section is where a lot of interesting discussion goes on. If I get something wrong in my post and a commenter points it out, I’ll hold my hands up and amend it and give them credit.

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