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QC Times pulls the plug on anonymous comments online

The Quad-City Times newspaper is the latest media outlet to pull the plug on anonymous commenting on its website. The editor says the comment section was all too often taken over by haters and bullies, instead of readers interested in lively debate.

"We have to make a decision as an industry if we want to spend our resources creating journalism, creating content, being out there reporting.  Or do we want to spend our time with somebody sitting at a computer denying comments, and emailing people, telling them they crossed the line?," said Autumn Phillips, Executive Editor of the Quad-City Times.

"Where's our priority and to me, the priority is journalism," she said.

Phillips says the decision to do away with online comments by readers was a hard one, and debated for a few months.
She says she knew it was the right move after viewing numerous anonymous comments on a murder story Friday morning.

"There was a story about a man who had just been stabbed and beaten to death. People were using our forum on that story to make racist remarks, make derogatory comments about the police. In that moment, I knew I was making the right choice," she said.

In a piece explaining the decision, Phillips wrote she was sick of the "sea of ridiculousness, hate speech, and online bullying by anonymous commenters."

Instead, she invited readers to engage in debate via the paper's social media sites.

"The difference is, your name is on it. You have to take responsibility or ownership of your opinion," Phillips said.

Several media outlets have done away with online commenting, including CNN and soon, NPR.

WQAD-TV took away its online commenting ten months ago, steering viewers to Facebook and Twitter.

Phillips says readers have been both for and against the change, but says, she is satisfied with the final decision.

"Since I've shut off the comments, I've heard from multiple people, including parents who said you know, you'd write about one of our children in a sports story, and the cruel things people would say, the bullying that went on," she said.