This week, The News & Observer switched to Facebook for reader comments. Other McClatchy newspapers, including The Charlotte Observer, made that change awhile ago, and others will follow.
Eric Frederick, the managing editor of the Raleigh paper’s website, explained the reasons for the change this way:
We believe that if you have something to say, you should be willing to put your name on it. And we think most of you will agree. It’s a standard we’ve always placed on letters to the editor in The News & Observer.
As on occasional commenter under the old system, I think this is a good move. Comments on the N&O site have been dreadful for some time, filled with trolling and race-baiting by people hiding by screen names and anonymity. That incivility is sadly typical for many news sites.
My hunch is that some readers will still behave badly even using their real names. And others will try to create fake Facebook accounts so they can continue to rant and rave anonymously. But this change will make it more difficult to do that, and I hope it will lead to more civil conversations about the news of the day.