Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sun Chronicle Charges Bloggers to Comment on Online Edition Articles

NEW YORK - MAY 20:  In this photo illustration...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Anonymous bloggers who want to add their two-cents to articles appearing in the online edition of the Attleboro (Mass.) Sun Chronicle must now follow two steps: 1) shed their anonymity & 2) cough up 99 cents to add their two cents.

Editor & Publisher reports that the Sun Chronicle, like its neighboring newspapers, The Foxboro Reporter and the Taunton Silver City Bulletin, now requires would-be commenters  to register their name, address and phone number with the paper, along with a valid credit card number, and to pay 99 cents for the chance to comment on online news stories.

The Sun Chronicle is not looking to generate revenue to overcome shrinking advertising and lost circulation, as the daily's publisher concedes much of the 99 cent fee will be absorbed by the cost of verifying credit card numbers.  Rather, the paper hopes to elevate the level of public discourse concerning the news of the day and to deter obnoxious visitors to its website who spew vulgar and inflammatory remarks while hiding behind a pseudonym.  Newspapers around the nation are grappling with this issue, as reflected by The Buffalo News, which now requires its article posters to complete a registration form including their name, address, email and phone number (see "TUOL" post 6/21/10).

"TUOL" believes the same strict adherence to publication guidelines followed by the paper in publishing or rejecting "snail mail" letters to the editor can be applied to online comments without compromising the First Amendment free speech right recognized by the Supreme Court to protect one's identity while commenting on issues of public concern.  Charging readers to post comments will discourage citizen participation and public dialogue. Moreover, the Sun Chronicle may regret its policy if security is compromised and a hacker gains access to the credit card numbers of the posters.

Stop whining and be thankful you have readers energized enough to weigh in on local and national news issues.

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