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Your comments, please

March 12, 2008 - Jennifer Houtman
When people submit a letter to the editor to The Marietta Times, they do so with the understanding that certain guidelines are in place.

Those guidelines are published daily on the editorial page. They include the option the newspaper has of editing the letters and also, no personal attacks on any private individual or business. Every letter is screened and verified. We have the option as editors of the newspaper to decline a letter if we feel it doesn't meet our standards.

Many of those same standards apply to comments left on our stories online. People leaving comments don't have to include their real names, but they do have to register with our site in order to leave comments, and that provides some level of accountability.

Like the letters to the editor, the comments are edited, or read, and if we see personal attacks or potentially libelous comments being made, we have the option of removing a comment or taking down the ability to leave comments on a story all together. These guidelines are outlined in the terms of service all must agree to when they register. Again, this shouldn't be news to you if you are one who comments on our stories online.

Recently, a court story sparked some inappropriate comments. When we decided to remove the comments all together, we were criticized by some who felt that action was too extreme and unfair.

Like it or not, anything published in the newspaper - or online for that matter - is subject to editing. In the case of letters, we can decline to run them. In the case of comments, we can take them down. We use our news judgment every day in determining what stories we cover, where we run them in the newspaper, what photos we run and what headlines we write. The letters and comments are part of that journalistic process. The guidelines are clear, and you agree to them when you choose to participate.

We're glad people submit letters and post comments. But it's reasonable that we allow that interaction with some guidelines attached. As long as people's comments are truthful and fair, we usually don't have a problem.


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