The Quadrant hoax, with all the associated fussing and feuding, plus the vitriol associated with debates about the Middle East, has made me realise that I need a comments policy for this blog.

I watch a lot of blogs. The ones that have consistently quality discussions disallow personal abuse. I don’t think this is in any way undemocratic. Those who want no-holds barred blogs can either start their own, or participate in those that don’t moderate comments.

Trying not to reinvent the wheel, I’ve looked at other blogs’ policies.

John Quiggin says his blog is not public space, given that he publishes it at his own expense and in his own time. “There is no automatic right to comment here,” he says, before laying down some common sense rules.

Andrew Norton asks for comments that are

“civil, relevant, and reasonably concise. Since the bad can easily drive out the good in comments, I’m going to take a hard line against those who use bad language, abuse other commenters, digress too far from the thread’s subject, ramble, or engage in prolonged debates. Comments that breach the policy will be deleted, and the offending commenters put in moderation or banned completely.”

The women behind Skepticlawyer say:

“Keep it civil and all will be fine. Personal slurs directed at us will be deleted. Personal slurs directed at other commenters will be SOONED. The practice – invented by Catallaxy’s Jason Soon – involves the substitution of lavish praise for foul abuse. Defamatory remarks will be deleted, unless you wish to indemnify us for all losses at law. Repeat offenders will go in the moderation filter, possibly permanently.

It should be said that Catallaxy, being run by libertarians, is one of the no-holds barred blogs, so far as I can see.

Larvatus Prodeo has rules about abuse, plus a lot of guidelines on the use of sock puppets and the like.

All well and good. This blog, though, is a little different from those quoted above. Most bloggers blog for the non-financial rewards. As Quiggin says, their blogs are private spaces, not public ones. There has been a hot debate running, as I have highlighted here, about the difference between journalists and bloggers, with the point being made that most bloggers don’t see themselves as journalists. Fair enough, and I’ll have more to say about this on another occasion.

But I am a journalist who blogs. I am doing this blog as part of my work as a journalist, and I do get paid a (very small) amount for doing it. Therefore I think it is analogous (in a pathetically small way) to a media outlet – not a completely public space, but not an entirely private one either. So it is  appropriate to vary the usual rules a little.

So here are some notes towards a policy. I am posting them here  today to invite comment before I finalise them.

POLICY

FOR ME:

In my work on this blog and elsewhere, I regard myself as bound by the Media Alliance Code of Ethics and Press Council principles. I also look at the ABC Editorial Policies for guidance, although many of them are not relevant to an operation like this one, or to freelance journalism.

In particular I will endeavour to report truthfully, correct errors of fact promptly and, within the guidelines laid out below, allow fair right of reply to both factual allegations and expressions of opinion.

Given that part of the purpose of this blog is to discuss journalistic practice, I will make every attempt to be transparent about my ethical decisions, and respond to readers who want to question me about them.

FOR COMMENTERS:

1. Vigorous but civil debate is encouraged.

2. Personal abuse directed at other commenters will be deleted or the comment edited as necessary.

3. Sexist, homophobic and racist comments will be either deleted or edited to remove the offensive material.

4. I will tolerate a higher level of abuse directed at me than I would tolerate against other commenters. Even here, though, there will be limits.

5. Likewise, there will be a higher level of tolerance for abuse directed against public figures, but even here there are limits.

5. I will not allow this blog to be used for unreasonable breaches of personal privacy.

6. I do not intend to be sued for defamation over this blog. If I think a comment places me at risk of this, I will delete or edit as necessary.


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