Editors' Notebook

A Few Rules on Commenting

Greg D Horstmeier
By  Greg D Horstmeier , DTN Editor-in-Chief
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I recently received a well-reasoned letter from a reader that brought up the broader issue of how to let us know how you feel about things.

The short answer is we love to hear from you. One of the beauties of the digital age is the almost instantaneous, though at times too instantaneous, two-way communications between authors and readers. At DTN/PF we try to make that communication as easy as possible, putting email links and biographical information on all our writers and columnists in relatively easy-to-find spots across the web, mobile and satellite venues.

There is a catch: We need to know who "you" are. We don't carry anonymous letters.

In the case of the letter I'm referencing, I was at first quite pleased to see that this particular reader had, instead of firing off a searing email, (in which case I would have had an email address to correspond with him or her) had taken the time to literally take pen in hand and compose a thoughtful, well-reasoned argument for his or her point. My over-55 eyes even appreciated the good penmanship.

The author was obviously concerned about the direction of the farm commodity prices, and had a strong opinion of what might help said prices. It criticized some common practices in the ag industry, even respectfully criticized DTN/PF and other information outlets for their part in those practices.

There was only one problem: The letter was anonymous. It was signed "A Farmer Speaking on Behalf of Farmers Everywhere." But there was no other identifying information anywhere, not even a return address on the envelope.

So it now sits in the old-school "In Box" on my desk.

We have, on occasion, shared portions of letters, emails, or phone calls and kept the commenter anonymous. Even more rarely, we've allowed the use of anonymous comments in news stories.

The reason those instances are so rare is that they must meet all of the following criteria: We must first know who the author or source is, and have verified either their comment or their position that gives credence to the comment; the author or commenter must have asked us to remain anonymous; our editors decide, and I ultimately agree, that the information or comment is critical to share with readers; and finally, we determine that naming the commenter or source would clearly cost someone their job or otherwise bring them under severe ridicule.

It's a tough line to pass.

Yes, we allow individuals to call themselves "anonymous" when commenting on blogs. We also require everyone to give us a certain amount of information about themselves before being allowed to comment. It's enough information to allow us to blackball commenters who become too unruly. We've used that ability on occasion, and I've written about that in this space.

So please, tell us how you feel, what you think, what we or others are doing wrong or right. Just let us know enough about you so that we can verify that you are who you represent in those comments.

And if the author of that letter sees this, he or she, and anyone else with a comment, can drop me a line at greg.horstmeier@dtn.com or call 402-255-8475. I'd love to hear from you.



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Your editors never answer anyone though.