South Africa

EDITORIAL

Got something to say? Daily Maverick wants to hear it

Got something to say? Daily Maverick wants to hear it

We know that you, our readers, are intelligent, insightful and informed (you read us, after all) and we want to hear your opinions.

The time has passed for the media to merely speak to you, we now need and want to speak with you. Just over a year ago, we had to pull our comments system because the crew who were running the system that cleaned up comments for us had gone belly up. And we weren’t about to go back to those free systems that allow trolls to abuse our authors and other commentators.

As we grew from a niche publication into the country’s foremost independent voice, tackling some of South Africa’s thorniest issues, we were always going to be on a losing wicket with comments unless we found a system that could help us weed out those disrespecting few whose vitriol ruins the debate for all. Now we’re happy to announce that our search for digital penicillin may just be overafter a lot of research, hard work and testing we are delighted to announce that Comments are back! Registered users will be able to view and read comments; however, only Maverick Insiders will actually be able to post comments.

Anonymous or not, the comments section became a place where authors, and decent people, feared to tread. Those with a sadistic streak bypassed the editorial entirely to watch groups of people shed their veneer of real-world decency and indulge in slinging insults and hate speech at each other. Nobody wants that, bar the Milo Yianoppoulos’ of this world. But those with equally difficult surnames in management at Daily Maverick don’t, and so the search was on to find alternative methods for readers to engage with our work.

The overwhelming majority of feedback we got at the time was that readers were sad to see comments go but fully understood our rationale. For our staff, reading through comments was the equivalent of a random person off the street walking into an office worker’s cubicle and spewing profanity at them through a megaphone. Comments and reactions to our stories moved to Twitter and Facebook and all we succeeded in doing was to divert the muck elsewhere. Admittedly, it was a huge relief to see people take their morning verbal bowel movements on Mark Zuckerberg’s front lawn instead of ours, proving that the use of real names is no deterrent for what the depths of humanity can achieve.

We had no choice but to wait and trust that some bright sparks in a garage somewhere would come up with a way of handling this, throwing technology and human ingenuity at the problem. We encouraged good ‘ol-fashioned “Letters to the Editor” that produced many great pieces for us, although it added to an already creaking editorial team’s workload.

So Comments are back. With a new system, from the good people at Coral Talk, that will measure the toxicity of what is being written and will prevent any comments that would make Howard Stern blush from being published. (Side notepopulating the barred word list is a hugely insightful team-building exercise. But don’t try it at home.) We know the ingenuity of the depraved will find their way around this though, so we’ve also decided that only our Maverick Insiders will be allowed to post comments.

Our policy is to invest every possible cent we have into editorial and we simply don’t have the capacity to have a team of moderators making sure that the kids play nice in the sandpit. If we’re being honest (which we always are), we’re also hoping that by asking commentators to pay a membership fee we’ll be able to weed out any potential trolls. We genuinely want to hear what our readers have to sayand we’re excited to create this platform for them to say it onbut we won’t do it at the expense of our journalists’ well-being, or millions of readers who don’t appreciate hatred and trolls of any kind.

So where to from here? If you’re not already a member and your school reports said “Clearly capable but chats too much in class”, you may want to sign up to Maverick Insider so that those pithy remarks and profound insights can finally find a home. Please ensure that you read our comments policy firstwe don’t want to have to slap your wrists, or worse, revoke your membership. If, however, you’re more a comments voyeur, then all you need to do is register and log in to the Daily Maverick website.

Our goal regarding comments is clear. Like our editorial, we don’t want to censor opposing views and opinions but rather nudge behaviour in the direction of civil dialogue. This is what we expect of our journalists and opinionistas, and now, what we expect of our readers too.

Finally, before you post a comment, consider what you’re saying. Words can offer insight, they can inspire thought and action, they can excite and innovate but they can also tear down and break apart, they can terrorise and devastate. We know the power words can yield. After all, words from the #GuptaLeaks changed the course of history. Don’t underestimate them. And use yours to make this a better place. DM

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