A smarter, more generous discussion: NBN's 5 new commenting guidelines

    Hey there! I’m Robinson Meyer: a senior majoring in music and English and NBN’s Community Editor. It’s my job to make sure the conversation North by Northwestern houses and promotes is as articulate, intelligent, and generous as it can be. My jobs involve finding students and faculty with unsung but worthy opinions, serving as a liason between the managing staff and the school at large, and - yes - moderating comments.

    But don’t stop reading! We’re really excited about comments this year.

    We’ve just switched to commenting software called Disqus. Disqus is a hosted service that lets you use Facebook, Twitter or a stable anonymous username. We think these are huge advantages and we encourage you to take advantage of them. Frankly, vast, school-wide anonymous forums don’t have much of a precedent in the history of American student news publications; they don’t inherently promote a healthy discourse; and we don’t plan on perpetuating them. So we ask that you use your real name or a stable pseudonym, and that you do it through Facebook or Twitter.

    We’re also changing our comment guidelines this year. I think these new guidelines will help us better steward the conversation on our site. In a tweet, here’s the gist:

    Treat your readers as you’d treat fellow students in a class. Be kind. Write in good faith. Stay on topic. Write carefully & well. Have fun.

    And here, at a little more length, are the new guidelines:

    Most comments will appear on the site without moderation, but on some stories – selected by the editors – no comments will appear without first being approved by me. I’ll strive for a collegial, generous atmosphere while moderating. I’m unafraid to delete comments after they’re published.

    Here are some reasons I might delete a comment:

    1. It fails to take a Northwestern student, faculty member or administrator in good faith.

    2. It falsely assumes the identity of a Northwestern student, faculty member or others related to a story’s content (E.g., it pretends to be written by someone it’s not).

    3. It fails a basic test of 21st-century courtesy or legality, by commiting defamation or libel, being offensive or deploying a slur.

    4. It is an announcement, such as, to paraphrase Alan Jacobs, “No rational person could be religious,” or “Morty wants to destroy fraternities at Northwestern.”

    5. It is boring or unsubstantive. NBN, vanguard of an institution of higher education, abhores boors and bores of most every sort (though we approve of Boers).

    If you disagree with a comment deletion decision, you can petition me or the editor-inchief, Julie Kliegman. I can regularly be reached by email and can always be reached on Twitter, at @yayitsrob.

    Also, while we strike comments from the record, we don’t strike them from existence: A history of deleted, public comments can be requested by any member of the Northwestern University community at any time.

    Our expectations for comments might sound limiting, but they come down to this: Treat other commenters as you’d treat other students in a seminar, and treat the subject at hand as if you’re talking in front of a really cool TA. Because you probably are.

    Now let’s close some tabs, have fun and start chatting.


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