Sam Sawyer, S.J. | Zac DavisNovember 01, 2019
Photo by Fabian Irsara on Unsplash.

If you’re a frequent reader of our site, you have probably at least read, if not contributed to, our comments section. Those comments are sometimes places for quality discussions, insightful and challenging questions and important feedback about the stories we publish. Sadly, all too often, they are the opposite of that and wind up derailing the conversation rather than improving it. (We’re also soliciting feedback about the old comments system. Fill out our survey here.)

Moderating comments to improve the tone of the discussion is challenging, and we regularly receive emails and comments from readers expressing a desire for a better experience. We are not alone in this experience, with more and more publications shutting down comment sections altogether.

Yet, we believe that the comments section is not beyond redemption. And we believe that our work and ministry is at its best when it is sparking conversations and allowing us to learn from readers and readers to learn from each other.

We’ve worked with with Coral, through the support of the Lenfest Institute’s Community Listening and Engagement Fund, to relaunch America’s commenting experience. It provides our editorial staff and commenters alike with new technology and features to enable a charitable, fruitful, safe and substantive conversation. In addition to a more responsive interface for commenting, this new system will also allow for reporting comments that violate our comments policy and using the “respect” button to help identify comments that improve the conversation.

We will be testing this new platform on just a few articles to begin with, and then switching over to it entirely over the next few weeks. However, we are going to aim for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation—and that means we won’t have comments turned on automatically on every new article. We plan to pick a few articles each day with the most potential for a good conversation, and we will work to have editors and writers actively involved there. However, we’ll have other options for feedback on the articles for which comments are not turned on.

We need your help in planning how this new platform will work. So, we’ll use the comments section on this article to raise a few questions about what a healthy comments community might look like here at America.

Those questions are:

  • What topics do you most want to see comment conversations for? 
  • What do you think makes for a good commenting experience and community? 
  • As moderators, what are the most important things we need to keep an eye on as we relaunch comments?

Please use the comments section, located below, to respond.

If you run into any problems using our new comments system, please let us know by sending us an email at comments@americamedia.org. (This email should only be used for bug reports; please post your feedback about the new comments system in the comments section below.) When reporting a technical issue, please include any error messages you receive and screenshots if available.

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