Readers’ Editor – some thoughts from the first month or so

OwlSo, I’ve been in post for a few weeks now, and I thought that I really ought to give you a taste of some of the issues that have arisen so far.

Is it fair to judge someone’s performance whilst they’re on maternity, paternity or long-term ill health leave?

This question did spur some slightly guilty reflection on my part. Childless by choice, and with little experience of the impact of either children of long term ill-health on one’s ability to function, it had never crossed my mind that, by including someone who was temporarily away from their post in our latest LDV Members’ Survey, we might be thought to be the cause of pressure on such a person to return to work earlier, or to do more, than was sensible.

As publishers, we do have a wider responsibility to take into account the effects of our actions, and given that our polls are quoted by other outlets (and not always friendly ones), any polling that might give a false impression, especially in relation to the ratings of senior Liberal Democrat politicians, is sub-optimal. Accordingly, I have recommended that, in future, where an individual is away from their post for an extended period for any reason, they be excluded from polling during that period. It would be helpful to the Editorial Team if, where such circumstances exist, they were pointed out to us as quickly as possible.

How best can we advise readers when comments are not permitted on a particular article/

Occasionally, when the content of an article is very controversial, comments are not permitted. This is something that is not done lightly, but if the Editorial Team feel that comments of a libellous or otherwise defamatory nature are likely, such a decision is taken. But how do we make that clear to readers so as to reduce levels of frustration? The answer, for the time being at least, is to include a statement to that effect in the main body of the article.

Yes, the comments box is not available in such circumstances, but it seems easier to make the information explicit rather than implied.

Can I withdraw my comments if I wish?

The short answer is, “No.”, as our comments policy does outline (scroll towards the bottom for an explanation). More prosaically, removing one person’s comments can have consequential effects. Any subsequent response to a deleted comment then appears contextless and an entire thread may need to be edited to make it read properly. For a volunteer website, this is perhaps a burden too great to be practical, especially where a, how shall I put it, more prolific commentor is involved.

So, there’s a flavour of the sort of issues that arise, and I welcome any other matters that you would like to have addressed.

* Mark Valladares is in search of a rocking chair, a jug of mint julep and a straw hat, the essential tools of a Readers’ Editor…

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6 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Oct '13 - 5:51pm

    If you aren’t allowed to remove comments if you wish, because of consequential effects, then LDV shouldn’t be allowed to insert comments when they wish, via auto-moderation. I don’t really agree with deleting comments either, but comments that have been moderated should be inserted at the bottom of the conversation, not where they were when written.

    Thanks

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Oct '13 - 8:57pm

    OK.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Oct '13 - 8:59pm

    Basically, I now see the problem of inserting comments in places other than where the commenter intended, so thanks for clarifying that, however I take offence at the line “if in doubt read the comments policy and stick to it”, because like I have pointed out countless times: it is not being applied fairly.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Oct '13 - 9:48pm

    Thanks Mark. I understand.

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