Keith Whamond

Senior product manager, Hearst Newspapers

Mark this date: Topix is no more

|

The following is an open letter to our readers:

We’ve heard you.

Time and again, the most consistent complaint about our sites we’ve heard from our users has been, to paraphrase, “The comments on your stories are horrible.”

“They’re filled with vile garbage.”

“They do nothing to add to a healthy conversation.”

“They’re extremely offensive.”

Our response has been equally steadfast: “We agree with you.”

Nobody cares more passionately about the freedom of speech than the members of our industry. I wouldn’t be doing what I do today if I didn’t believe strongly in the rights promised in the First Amendment.

In that sense, I’m not alone in thinking that users should be able to post comments on the stories that we write. I also think they should be able to post comments that I personally disagree with.

What I don’t believe, though, is that people should be allowed to anonymously post racist, threatening, homophobic comments on our site on a daily basis. And we’ve never allowed them to. Whenever that kind of garbage has been reported to us, we have deleted it as promptly as we could.

The problem with our story commenting system, which was administrated on a partnership with Topix.com, was that it made such anonymous postings all too easy to write.

I still believe it was an extremely vocal minority that ruined the concept for everyone else. But it’s a moot point: They were way out of hand.

As some may know, we’re in the middle of a complete relaunch of our sites, and developing a better way to integrate user comments has been one of our major goals. Our new sites are dramatically more user-friendly, and story commenting will be far more secure.

But those new sites aren’t ready yet. This is too important to wait any longer.

So, we got rid of the comments entirely. If you’d like to let us know how you feel about the stories we cover, please contribute to our newsroom blogs — Connecticut PostingsStamford 411, and Greenwich Real Time. NewsTimes.com’s newsroom blog will be launching next week.

We’ve sacrificed a feature that we believe in because what we had wasn’t working. I have a hunch most of our readers will be thrilled. I know I am.

Categories: General
Keith Whamond

66 Responses

  1. tut says:

    you folk cannot deal with real freedom of speech, your thin skined ,weak, wimpish folk, unable to deal with it.

  2. Idaho says:

    Having looked over the 63 comments above there are a few familiar names that are still on the Topix Greenwich forum but the rest seem to have disappeared for good. I think that tells you something about your new comment system!!

    As for Sheila’s comment I would agree that some of the comment that shows up on the net is trash but I for one am able to sort it out for myself and don’t need big brother to protect me. It’s kind of like porn there’s lots of it out there. Watching it or not is your choice. I think they call that “Free Speech”

  3. Bren says:

    Thank you for taking a stand against the most vile, disgusting site on the internet, Topix. How they can claim to a legit news reporting site is beyond me. The unmoderated forums are complete garbage. Have you see many of them in the state of Kentucky, West Virginia, or Tennessee? They are awful. You have a group of cowards who go in and post innocent people’s names and make up a bunch of complete lies with the intention of hurting people. This can cost people their jobs, reputations, you name it. One day someone is going to commit suicide or harm another over that site. In a day and age of cyberbulling, for Topix and the companies that own Topix to allow that to happen is deplorable.

  4. WEL says:

    You will not see the above name on TOPIX
    I have been banned for telling the verifiable truth

  5. Sheila says:

    I am way late on this but the topix forums should be banned altogether. Topix is no longer a newssite, but a hate site. Go to many small town forums and citizen’s names will be mentioned with several spineless posters saying horrible things about extramarital affairs, calling people hoes and skanks, names, talking about children, and a variety of other things. That isn’t news people that is pure garbage and innocent lives can be ruined. That site is terrible.

  6. Hannah says:

    Certainly, some of the Topix comments were indeed offensive, but all I had to do was skip over the posters offensive to me. I really liked the variety of perspectives coming in from all over the world, and I think some townies even liked the “spherical” reaction to local subjects. When I lived in town, both the beautiful and ugly side of humanity co-existed in a certain kind of balance, understanding, and visibility. Nowhere is this duality more visible now than in NYC. I can only imagine what goes on behind the locked gates of the mansions (though Madoff, Dick, Skakel, and Helmseley gave us a tiny glimpse), but it’s foolish to think this town does not have a distaff side, any more than one can consume white veal without acknowledging the disproportionate and “ugly” suffering the calf must go through to make that meat white. Or build a gleaming mansion (of which less than 20 percent will actually be used) without acknowledging the damage done to the environment. Despite all the ignorant comments (which most of us readers are competent to recognize as such without fainting away), I honestly think this paper–and this town-benefited from hearing such a wide variety of perspectives in Topix. It will be interesting to see just how much “edge” will be “allowed” into the newly screened comments. On the other hand, this paper seems to be joining my CA hometown paper which does not publish ANY commentary it politically disagrees with. Pity.

  7. Our voice shrinks says:

    I will miss the comments, vile, good, pointed, or otherwise. This is life, and this is humanity in all its diversity and rainbow of colors.

    I guess the Advocate never read the comments, only heard the complaints. There were many instances which valid tips and suggestions were given, some of which were probably worthy of an investigative follow-up.

    In any event, it seems the Advocate is carrying on the torch being followed by so many newspapers these days, that the only opinion worth printing is the opinion of the paper itself and its accomplices in teh government. None originating elsewhere is worth the ink. Even if ink in cyberspace costs nothing.

    That torch is consuming the traditional news outlets, rather than lighting the way.

    I believe the next step will soon be to convert this website to a paid subscription. We will pay to watch the advertising.

    Thank goodness there is an abundance of other sites on the Internet which are not afraid to engage in alternative journalism and open and frank (even if raunchy) discussion.

  8. Marilyn says:

    This is good news.

    I too support freedom of speech but the intent was to allow people to voice their criticism of government and express their ideas freely without fear of reprisal. It was not intended to allow the psychological abuse of another or to allow slander designed to destroy the reputation of another.

    One can object or promote ideas without inciting riots or encouraging violence though some object to even those restrictions.

    It is a difficult balance.

  9. Diana S says:

    Wow, I finally found out what happened to the comment link at the end of the articles – someone was nice enough to post it to topix.

    I am frankly surprised at the Advocates decision…makes reading the news less interesting if you cannot read comments or make comments.

    As others have stated many of the missing facts related to a story only come out in the comment section.

    I hope the Advocate gets there system up and running soon.

    I hate to be a pessimist, but I cannot see how they are going to police it any better than topix did. Topix seemed fast in reacting to “questionable” material.

  10. Tony E Neuman says:

    It was good while it lasted. Good bye

  11. Jill says:

    Thanks former res for commenting on this issue. I’m shocked and disappointed that the blog or topix has been deleted. Of course you cant please everyone all of the time. The reality is, is that people are free to say what they believe and if you dont like it dont read it! Differing opinions is what makes the world go round. I enjoyed it and I do miss it, and all of it, the good and the bad. FREEDOM OF SPEECH ….OUR LEGAL RIGHT!!

  12. Gypsy says:

    Keith, you and I have had many discussions in the past regarding the NewsTimes’ posting boards.

    It really is a shame that you discontinued the board in which everyone was required to register and we had moderators and administrators – in case you have forgotten, I was one of the admins, given that responsibility by Dan Wheeler before he left the NewsTimes, a job I continued to do with approval by yourself, Brian Kinney and Marty Bailey. I honestly have no idea why the NT decided to remove that board and replace it with Topix, a board that you actually have to PAY for as opposed to one the NT administers itself.

    In any case, should the position of moderator or administrator open up again, I am perfectly willing to assume the responsibility once again, with your oversight of course.

  13. former res says:

    Keith,

    Was there a concern that many people clicked on the newspaper sites only to get to Topix? And that by alienating much of your online audience, you adversely affect revenue? With many newspapers circling the drain, I would think it would be important to court online users.

    I’m curious, how does this response compared to what was expected?

    It strikes me as a bit misanthropic to refer to a portion of your readerhsip’s self-expression as “disgusting behavior.” I didn’t enjoy reading much of it anymore than I enjoyed watching the Town Halls on TV, or even watching all the hate expressed at the Palin rallies, but that’s America. Whether we like it or not.

  14. Keith Whamond says:

    Elle,

    As with any potentially illegal content posted on Topix, any matters concerning law enforcement and IP addresses are out of our hands. The boards are administrated by Topix. The larger issue here is that Topix, by its very nature, seems to actively encourage this kind of disgusting behavior. And that was why we decided to part ways.

    Hope this helps.

  15. Elle A. (Yesss) says:

    Keith -

    Please tell me why these specific users could not be traced through IP address banned and / or had legal action taken against them if they were posting such things (of which personally I never witnessed but do not refute).

  16. former res says:

    ps…our notes crossed in the mail. I never saw a child porn site posted and I’m a frequent user. I have to conclude these were deleted rather speedily. I’ve seen other posts deleted very quickly. Wikipedia can block editors via their IP address. I believe Topix had this ability also.

  17. former res says:

    Keith,

    “Dire” seems a bit hyperbolic. I think a site that’s been in place for years could have stood for another few weeks while you all worked out the new comment system. Surely this situation didn’t come about overnight.

    At any rate, I appreciate your responses in updating us on the status of the new system. We Greenwich Time readers are standing by.

  18. Keith Whamond says:

    Thanks for allowing me to clarify, Elle. I suppose the Topix situation became dire once we had to delete links to child pornography sites posted by those same “trolls.” I think we can all agree that’s pretty dire.

  19. Elle A. (Yesss) says:

    Keith -

    I don’t understand how the situation was “dire.” Trolls were throwing insults around probably to instigate some sort of reaction from the legitimate users. I would hardly call this a “dire” situation. No one forced anyone to read the comments on an article. If someone was “offended” all they had to do was click off of the comments.

    I find it ridiculous that we have to be so sensitive to everyone’s feelings that we cannot even have open forums anymore. As another poster above said – this is real life! These are real thoughts! Censoring them isn’t going to make them go away.

    I plan on registering for your new system as soon as it gets up and running provided it does NOT ask for any personal information. Having my information rampant all over the internet is far more dangerous than having some idiot posting slurs.

  20. Keith Whamond says:

    Elle,

    I agree wholeheartedly that comments are a vital aspect to our sites. We’re working tirelessly on our new commenting platform.

    Unfortunately, the situation on Topix had become so dire that waiting was no longer an option.

    I appreciate your patience.

  21. Elle A. (Yesss) says:

    While I agree many of the comments on Topix were out of hand, I have wondered time and time again why registration with a valid email address cannot be put into place to prevent some of the trolling.

    I personally enjoyed having lively debates with other users and I registered with Topix so that I had a valid email address in case anything I posted was offensive or I needed to communicate with moderators.

    People posted offensive comments directed at me and I didn’t feel it necessary to make a big stink out of it. People are morons, thus is life. Why punish the majority for the minority?

    Please place a new system where we can register to make comments. I find it very bothersome that now we cannot respond to the stories in our own words.

    Thank you,
    Elle

  22. Joseph says:

    Editor,

    It is about time, racism, negative talks about people who have passed away. I was shocked to see so many people saying so many horrible things. I am not to fond of the Stamford Advocate, but I have no gained a higher respect for its staff for making the decision to remove topix. Freedom of Speech is the greatest right that we have, but it’s sad to see people abuse it.

  23. Chris in Bpt says:

    Keith,

    I have to agree with ‘Former Res’. What we read on Topix was basically the reading audience, like it or not, aside from an occasional troll who only came in to incite things. With the exception of comments that are obviously offensive (racist, slanderous, profanities, etc.), I want to hear everyone’s opinion. Yes, I even want to hear from the nuts and weirdos out there! That’s real life! If you can’t take reality, don’t look at it! I liked the Topix forum, for the most part. Usually offensive comments were removed by Topix fairly quickly.

    Another thing, putting your full real name on ANY discussion board is not a safe thing to do. I have no problem registering for the new discussion forum. If the new forum is going to be ‘live time’ like Topix and not overly censored and sanitized, it might be enjoyable again…..I’m not counting on it though.

    Oh, and what will become of CT Sam? He is already going into serious withdrawals on the B-port Topix forum….LOL

  24. With Held says:

    To : Hugh
    Hugh, how are your constitutional rights being violated ? The first amendment says that the government will not make any laws abridging the freedom of speech.

    The NewsTimes is not the government. Nor has your freedom of speech been taken away. Topix is still up and running, and you have always had the option to creating your own blog, website, whatever to express your opinions.

    The NewsTimes simply exercised their right to not be affiliated with Topix.

  25. cherly boston says:

    Former res,

    I see what you mean about free speach. It’s needed. It really is, but how much longer do we need to take verbal racist opression before people stand up for what’s correct instead? I think the Newstimes is a wonderful media outlet, and I’m so proud of their actions. I finally feel proud to live in Danbury.

  26. Joe O says:

    The posting was one way to let people know how we really feel about topics. Sorry if it upset people but sometimes the truth hurts. But that right under this administration we not allowed to think for ourselves nor are we allowed to voice opinions that to it. I always new the paper was the voice of the left.

  27. Keith Whamond says:

    Former Res,

    The new commenting system will be live on our new sites. We’re working day and night — literally — on brand new Web sites that are cleaner, faster, and more intuitive. The first will be NewsTimes.com, with the rest hopefully following quickly. They’re coming soon.

    We’re still tweaking the comments on these new sites, but they will definitely be real-time. They’re actually faster than Topix ever was, and a new comment appears the second a user hits enter.

  28. former res says:

    Keith,

    Also, will the new system be “live”? With Topix, we have more or less real-time conversations with one another.

    With “moderation” (as on this blog) – that would not be possible.

  29. former res says:

    Keith,

    When will the new comment system be up and running?

  30. cherly boston says:

    Keith,

    The racist hate speech on your newspaper’s site brought tears to my grandmother’s eyes on numerous occasions. At times it felt like we were living in the deep south 100 years ago. The hatred spewed towards our immigrant neighbors was frightening as well.

    I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this decision. It’s nice to know we have such wonderful people working in our hometown media. Thank You!

  31. John Bowman says:

    Hi Kieth,
    My favorite recollection was when I worked to get no parking signs put up on I-95 where someone was killed when they hit a truck on the shoulder – something that is illegal in all but 3 states, CT being one of them. Comments included, among other gems, a wish that Bowman was run over by a sleepy truck driver. I am a Greenwich Time Blogger (Getting Involved in Greenwich), I think the comment format, which allows anonymous posts but requires a review before they are published, is really a perfect solution. A lot of extra information about the stories was posted in those topix forums and they helped me a lot in news gathering for my blog and for other political activities. Maybe you can get some aspiring journalist high school or college kids to moderate comments. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which should be denied publication.
    I do agree, however, with your decision. Too much of the posts were absolutely vile racist comments.
    - John

  32. Hugh Manatee says:

    To the Bethel Mother:
    I can understand you exercising your parental prerogative to censor your own impressionable children in your own home and feeling that the News Times’ recent decision just made your job a little easier, but I fail to see how a temporary silencing of the voices you don’t wish to hear is viewed as an acceptable solution to the larger problem of the hatred that is seething within this community.It may be a respite, but it’s not an answer – in the same way that covering your eyes does not make anyone invisible.

    Although I am continually astounded and offended by the xenophobic tunnel vision displayed by some in the Topix comments, I am a staunch defender of free speech who believes that the real danger in suppressing people’s opinions is that it will drive the bad apples more quickly to lashing out in some more harmful way – and no one will have predicted it because our finger was off the pulse. It will also disengage the people who truly connect with one another to solve problems and bridge relationships by sharing ideas in an open forum.

    Given the choice (which I should have – whether you wish to shield your children or not), I prefer to keep my eyes open and know what’s really in the hearts of the people around me.

    As for young Mr. Whamond of Hearst – you can call it whatever you want but censorship by any other name is still censorship – and it is a direct violation of my constitutional right.

  33. Gracious says:

    I hope Alex (aka Proxy FREAK) is happy now !
    Although, I don’t know what he’ll do with all of his spare time.

  34. Mark T Perez says:

    Kind of interesting that they pull Topix a couple of months before Bridgeport has its municipal elections. Guess the Post is afraid of the Finch/Testa political machine. SHAME on the Post for caving in to a bunch of corrupt politicians!

  35. Jay says:

    Good, bad or ugly, I liked having the opportunity to read the unvarnished opinions or ideas of others – or to dismiss them at my discretion. I often wonder if the media self-censors, in hopes of maintaining a “positive” relationship with their sources or elected officials. The Topix forums might not have been 100% pleasant or 100% transparent, but they often broadened the dialogue beyond the final edited reporting — particularly important to me on local issues.

    I can only hope that the new “user comments” section will be up and running as we enter the upcoming election season.

  36. NORTHIDAHO says:

    Keith,

    Former res and Townie pretty much sum up my feelings. I think at this time you are guilty of “Throwing out the baby with the bath water” I hope you can retrieve and revive the baby. Topix was not very well policed at times but many times it provided a different viewpoint on local matters which was welcomed by many. The humor was good at times too. Good Luck,

    NORTHIDAHO

  37. Bethel Mother says:

    I can’t tell you how pleased I am to hear that this comments section has gone away. My children are getting old enough to read and they’ve been subjected to the vile, racist filth that’s been posted about our immigrant community. It’s no surprise that “former res” has expressed his distaste about your sound and bold decision to improve your website. We can all sleep better at night knowing these racists will not be allowed to threaten our community anymore. Thank you Newstimes. Thank you so much for making our community a better place!

  38. Still in Stamford says:

    Townie, I agree. While some of the comments were terrible, it definitely helped provide insight and really, the majority of people were not a problem. If the forum were well-moderated, the really vulgar comments could be taken down, and yet freedom of speech preserved. I enjoyed learning how other people think, even when I disagreed with them wholeheartedly. If we all agreed on everything, it would certainly be a dull world.

  39. Townie says:

    I think this decision smacks of censorship. True some of the comments were in poor taste but I found many very insightful and interesting. I think like all written material you pick and choose what you read. This decision impacts all of us and I think it was a hasty one and not well thought through and now voices that I don’t necessary agree with have been silenced.

  40. former res says:

    Keith,

    I completely disagree with this decision. The posts – the good, the bad and the ugly – give a snapshot of America – warts and all. It lets you know what people are thinking – as unpleasant as that may be at times.

    When Jimmy Carter recently spoke out calling much of the anti-Obama sentiment “racism” – I might have doubted this were it not for reading this forum. Seeing what is in people’s hearts is not always pretty – but it is the truth.

    This is what the media should be dealing in – truth. Evidently it got a little too real for you and some of your readers. Too bad you don’t have the stomach for it. Perhaps you shoud be in a different business.

    Very disappointed.

  41. Miranda says:

    I think that if they didn’t like what they read then they shouldn’t have stayed away from it.

    If I read comments I didn’t like, I just stopped reading them.

    Who really cares? The CT is desperate. You have street scrotes at the ends of every exit ramp to sell your stupid paper. I found a paper on my lawn and it really pissed me off. I don’t want to read your garbage. Stop littering my lawn.

  42. Keith Whamond says:

    Thanks for the post, SC. I think we’re very close to saying the same thing. It’s great feedback.

  43. Al Bruhn says:

    I have mixed emotions about this matter although I support it nonetheless, but for various reasons among them the fact that “don’t shoot the messenger” and let the messagebe heard. I also believe that we as American don’t have total free expression as guaranteed in the US Constitution that there have been added laws that inhibit free speech.
    There should be no libel, slander or defamation of character as that prevents free speech. I really believe that people should freely decide what is and what is not, pure and simple. In the meantime, we as Americans as strapped with limited free speech and must abide by it.

  44. The whole situation could have been avoided by moderation of the message board. The News Times ultimately failed in it’s responsibility to maintain control of it’s web content (even if it was through a third party).

    Many flagged messages were ignored or were pulled only after a call (or several calls) to the web content department of the news times. If the NT had been responsive to flagged messages and quickly pulled them, the spammers/haters would have given up.

    I am a member of several forums on the internet and what I have seen on the NT forums has rarely happened on these forums. All that is required is a validated email account to join these forums. (Sheesh from the post above — a cc validation? Let’s get away from that fast!) Why doesn’t the same chaos happen on these forums? The validation is a deterrent, but also the forum community is listened to by the moderators and action is taken swiftly on flagged messages.

    The first sentence on this blog is “We’ve heard you.”. Were you really listening in the first place? Will you listen in the future? The NT does has a community and needs to respond to it. A new community forum will be a big responsibility and will need to be recognized. Listen to your community – for real – just don’t say it.

    (feel free to contact me if you want me to beta test your new forums)

  45. Dissatisfied Reader says:

    One more reason not to read the Greenwich Time or Stamford Advocate.
    We sure didn’t read it for it’s accuracy.

  46. Nick says:

    It is a delicate balance between free speech and responsible web hosting, but I agree Topix “wasn’t working.” Best of luck with the overhaul

  47. Joel Gonzalez says:

    Comment by dave bonan:

    “…i’m the only one on there that posted with their real name…”

    Don’t flatter yourself!

  48. Thank you. I have read some of the comments with such disgust at the way some of us still think. It has been just appalling. This is time to stop it.

  49. Deanna says:

    I have to admit that I am torn by this decision. On one hand, I also found many postings to be vile and inappropriate, and when I did, I flagged them. More often than not they were removed. I do believe that people should take more consideration in what they post (I have often responded to people in chat rooms “Would you say that to me if you ran into me at the grocery store?”).

    I do not believe that any format is going to eliminate the less than responsible individuals from infiltrating and getting their ignorant laced point posted. Those bent on posting their nastiness will be willing to give up the $1 and are probably going to give false information via using a prepay card (great idea, but certainly there are ways around any barrier).

    I look forward to seeing the new layout.

  50. Peter Lerman says:

    There is a complex issue here that should not be trivialized or simply dismissed. I am 100% in favor of the News Times decision to eliminate the Topix “forums”.

    Freedom of speech also includes the freedom from speech. Citizens are not to be ridiculed and slandered with impunity. Unfortunately (or not) the courts have found that the publishers of a blog (in the case the NT) are not legally responsible for the comments of posters. This leaves a situation where, when posting is anonymous, there is no one with responsibility.

    There is harm that is done by reckless and defamatory postings in a public venue; harm that cannot be redressed unless the authors of those writings are identified. Courts have only recently begun to force online publishers to reveal the identities of posters who abuse the system to defame and libel. The use of online proxy services to conceal identities makes this anonymity one level more removed still.

    We have seen that when some local crack pots feel confident in ‘getting away with it’ there is no limit to how low they will stoop. (I read the trashy stuff they wrote about Mr. Hillman and it was sick.) As someone who has received a call from my local police department warning me that someone on the NT Topix forum had threatened to kill me I guess I understand this as well as anybody can.

    A simple system of the most basic review/screening of postings is all that’s needed, just as it’s being done here right now. An intern could do it. A minimum wage part-time college student could do it. That’s all you need.

    I would go a step further and allow an additional safeguard. If users were required to make a $1 donation to a charity of their choice via credit card you could eliminate all the smears and trashy postings all at once. People who wish to post could create an online “identity” or “handle” and register it by making a $1 (or more) donation to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam, etc..

    The credit card information need not be retained, only the persons actual, verified name and address. Then identity is confirmed independently and we’d see the discussion take a much more civil tone.

    People could still post under assumed names and disagree as much as they liked but nobody would feel free to slander and slur without the certainly of their identity being associated with these comments if they crossed the line. If they are unhappy with the line and where it is drawn they are always free to express themselves in other forums, including starting their own blogs and websites.

    Three cheers to the NT for closing down the nasty forums!

  51. Herbert Q Jones says:

    This is a victory for the incompetents that run the city of Bridgeport. Shame on the Post!

  52. pete hogan says:

    The Truth is ugly and the liberal media has folded its’ tent to kiss the politicians one more time. Now there is really no need to even read the newspaper.

  53. Vox Pop says:

    There is no question that some comments were intolerable, notably in response to crime stories.
    One hopes the new format will be open enough to engender a lively but more civil exchange of opinions, comments and questions of concern to readers.
    The ability to respond to a specific news item broadens awareness on all sides. In some cases, it has led to positive changes.
    We look forward to the new system.

  54. Agree with all says:

    Agree with all. The thing with TOPIX that had me most concerned was those who posted unsubstantiated slanderous comments. Freedom of speech is one thing. Slander is something entirely different.

  55. Keith Whamond says:

    Bill,

    We are working to remove Topix entirely from the sites. Though we seem to have gotten 95 percent of the way there, you may still see remnant links here and there as we try to remove it completely.

    One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the “NewsTimes”, “ConnPost”, “StamfordAdvocate” and “GreenwichTime” sections of Topix will be rolled into the company’s Danbury, Bridgeport, Stamford and Greenwich forums in the next few hours. So, while users can still post on Topix, these boards will no longer be affiliated with us in any way, no matter where it’s linked from.

  56. Peter Lerman says:

    It’s long past time this “feature” was removed. It made the News Times the enabler of the public expression of horrible sentiments, character assassination, racism, threats, etc., from behind a veil of anonymity.

    It could have enabled the exchange of ideas and opinions but the fact that people could use this topix blog without taking responsibility for their posts gave those with bad intentions a safe haven and a soapbox.

    Many other online publications have implemented “reader comments” in ways that prevent this. The NY Times and others simply review posts prior to publication and do not pass along to a public forum comments that are off-topic or obscene. At a minimum posters must be required to be identified as the authors of their comments. Free speech does not mean freedom from responsibility but topix allowed people to do just that: avoid responsibility.

    This decision is long overdue and most welcome.

  57. With Held says:

    Comment 7 – try reading the poster’s name in reverse, and add “a” between the t and the h – as in Skip Setahi this is one of the regular topix trolls from the NewsTimes branch who came up with that nick to hide from you.

    Yes, I dont expect you to post this but there was no other way to contact you

  58. Bill Hillman says:

    As one of the few people to register and use my own name (at least some of the time), I found replies to mostly be of a personal attack and rarely a useful debate. Seeing the link to topix disappear is one thing. Having them delete all threads for the Newstimes and ending whats there for good would be another. When does that happen? People can go there right now and continue as if it never left.

  59. dave bonan says:

    ’bout f-ing time. only a year late. i’m the only one on there that posted with their real name and it had me either in taunton or florence mass, instead of danbury. i say make it more accountable and if anyone’s out of line, they get a 2-week suspension for racist comments which are the norm.

  60. Joel Gonzalez says:

    No more Connecticut Sam? I’m throwing a party!

  61. Keith Whamond says:

    Great comments and questions all.

    To be clear: The change has already happened. Topix has already been removed from our site.

    Rob, I agree that hearing the other side of a position is healthy. We just hope we’re going to be able to do this in a civil manner going forward.

    Judging by the smart and civil comments here, I think we will.

  62. Rob Wallace says:

    Hi Keith,

    I don’t quite know what to think about this. I’ve always been repulsed by the many of these comments to articles, but I also feel that they provided an interesting snapshot of the zeitgeist. It was always easy to look beyond the real garbage and the obvious “baiters” and “trolls” and take in the gestalt.

    Frankly, I’d rather be aware of the existence of morons and knuckleheads, lest I fall too easily into the belief that the majority of the world is rational and level-headed (I tend to think that it’s not).

    As a parent in a mixed-race family, an evil democrat (albeit a moderate one), a professional environmentalist, a tolerant and rational human, I would rather be aware of the forces against me than be blissfully ignorant.

    I hope that this new direction for the comments section doesn’t sacrifice the airing of all voices, even the offensive ones. I’d argue that hearing those is just as important as any others.

    Thanks for hearing me out,
    RW

  63. Nancy Dallavalle says:

    I’m with Mr. Stevenson on this.

    It seemed that the worst of the comments served only to invite more of the same. Worse yet, they have a chilling effect as, after a few such comments, those who have something constructive to say might well decide not to join in … why join a conversation with a bunch of yahoos and thugs?

    So, good call — I hope another format will be found.

  64. Steve says:

    What date will it be history?

  65. elwood says:

    I am glad that this is happening. Some of the garbage I have seen on the topix forum’s attached to the articles is disgusting. It is hard to believe some of those people are adults, or even human!

  66. Thank you for placing “responsible speech” over “free speech”.

    Many people who posted on the News-Times used their anonymous status to make themselves out to be the dolts that perhaps they really are. The cowardice of refusing to attach their names to their remarks allowed them to make outrageous claims and racist diatribes.

    Maybe these inflammatory statements are o.k. at public events like tea parties and KKK rallies – where cameras can record the face behind the words – but not in the closet of cyberspace.

    If posters had to attach their names to their comments – like writers of letters to the editor do – then they would have been ( hopefully ) stifled by either their own embarassment or the criticism of people who can make their point without the hyperbole.

    Again, thank you.

    David A. Stevenson