When we launched the Lost Coast Outpost back in 2011, the media world was a different place. Few expected that the fledgling Outpost would grow from what some people called a blog into the primary news source for Humboldt County (according to “Local TV News and the New Media Landscape“ by the Knight Foundation).
In addition to offering readers timely information, one thing that helped the Outpost grow was the audience interaction. Input from readers in the form of comments helped create a lively dialogue and a source of additional information. We embraced the interaction.
Over the last nine years, the comments section has become a battleground of opinions, a home for cynical points of view, and, on a good day, some laugh-out-loud comedy as our readers poked fun at each other. There were also downright rude and offensive remarks.
The solution we came up with was to divide the comments into different user experiences, where a reader could enjoy no comments (Zen), a more civilized discourse (Country Club), or the free-for-all (Thunderdome). At the same time, our staff would monitor all the comments, seeking to eliminate those that met these criteria:
- Racism, sexism and other ignorant prejudices
- Unfounded accusations of criminal behavior
- Hateful comments toward innocent bystanders
We have a small reporting staff that doesn’t always have the time to screen comments that might come in late at night. And to be honest, there were vile and ugly comments. Internet trolls, who have been with us as long as the internet has existed, proliferated. Though the comments section is reviewed by staff multiple times a day, we were not always successful in deleting the worst of the comments quickly enough.
In recent years, the world has become even more divisive, with racism being expressed more flagrantly. The impact of these types of comments causes real hurt for people of color and other communities that have experienced systemic discrimination.
The Outpost has come to the conclusion that we can no longer provide a forum for these comments to continue. It is for that reason that we have eliminated the Thunderdome, effective immediately. For the time being, we will continue to allow the Country Club comments, but will seek to refine that experience so that hate speech and racism do not appear on our pages.
Thank you to our readers and our advertisers for your support as we have navigated these uncharted waters. The Outpost will remain a work in progress constantly looking to innovate, try new things and make the reader experience better. We are committed to providing exceptional journalism to continue to serve our community uninterrupted.
President, Lost Coast Communications
General Manager, Lost Coast Communications
Editor, Lost Coast Outpost