By Adam Pagnucco.
Yesterday, a reader asked on our Facebook page why there were no comments directly on Seventh State posts. Well, we have a history with comments.
Our old blog, Maryland Politics Watch, originally allowed anonymous comments. That was a mistake! Many of them were vile, personal, racist and downright deplorable (just like a certain President’s Twitter feed). Eventually, the anons chased out almost all of the people commenting under their own names. The final straw came when a candidate dropped out of a race because of a terminal illness in his family. An anonymous commenter accused him of making up the illness and dropping out because he allegedly knew he would lose. The candidate went ballistic. That’s when we banned anonymous comments and required people to use their real names.
But that wasn’t enough. Under our old platform, Blogger, it was very easy to register a Google or Blogger account under any name and use it for commenting. How could we tell if they were real or not? The issue came to a head during my war with the “Boy King,” an intern hired by the Washington Post to write editorials about MoCo and Maryland. The Boy King became so alarmed by my writings that he sent a college friend to troll us using a phony name. So I tracked him down and printed the troll’s real name! That was great fun, but I thought, “Why am I spending so much time on this when I could be writing real stuff?” The new policy was ineffective.
Accordingly, when David Lublin started Seventh State, I totally understood why he was uninterested in going down that road again. But we had a new tool for interaction that had not yet ripened in the old days: Facebook. For better or worse, Facebook has become Seventh State’s de facto comment page. There are certainly phony Facebook accounts and some of them played a role in our last presidential election. But sadly, Vladimir Putin seems to not care about who gets elected to the Montgomery County Council, so there don’t seem to be a lot of bots here!
The quality of interaction that we get through Facebook far exceeds what we were able to obtain in the Maryland Politics Watch days. I personally read every single comment on the Facebook page. I like most of them and learn from a lot of them, even – and perhaps especially – from the folks who disagree with me. There have been several occasions when a reader’s comment caused me to think, “Hmmmmm, I should look into that. That could be a great post!”
Overall, the comments we receive reinforce what David and I have known for a long time – you are the best media audience in the county and perhaps in the entire state. No one knows our politics and our community better than Seventh State readers. Maybe more importantly, no one CARES more than Seventh State readers. That’s why elected officials, candidates, advocates and other muckety-mucks come on here. They may not care what David and I think, but they care what YOU think, and they should.
Thank you for reading Seventh State.