Originally posted February 12, 2008, but moving this up to the top of the blog again for a reminder, and because some things have been updated or expanded upon. Updated 10/21/2011 and 2/23/2012
Because this website has a fair number of daily readers who come here for news and opinion, we need to have a few rules regarding the posting of blogs and comments. We wish it were simple enough to just say "follow the golden rule". But after literally thousands of posts and comments here over the nearly 8 years this site has been around, we've learned the hard way that it's best for everyone - even those who do normally follow the golden rule - if we spell things out.
We do not like to censor posts or comments, and generally try to err on the side of allowing them, even if they conflict with our own views. The Lewisville Texan Journal strives to be an open forum where people can intelligently discuss and share ideas, philosophy, news, and opinion.
So, here are the rules:
1.Don't post hate speech. You know what that means. If you have to ask, then don't post. Too many other newspaper and local media sites are ruined by those types of comments.
2.Keep it civil, and try not to make it personal. It's okay to disagree with us or any other poster. If you go after the ideas with strong arguments, that's fine, but please don't go after the person. If you absolutely must have words with the person, you could take it to the Flame Pit. But we encourage our readers to think hard about what that accomplishes.
3.Don't post spam. Spam is any unsolicited commercial message. There are times when a link to a commercial product or service might be germane to a conversation, and those links need to be relevant and any personal conflict-of-interest disclosed.
4.Don't post personal attacks on non-public people. It's okay to ridicule someone's behavior if that behavior is in the public domain - such as when they make racist statements or commit a crime. We don't want to hear about their sexual habits or divorces unless there is a public interest rationale, such as hypocrisy.
5.Stand behind your words when making a derogatory statement of fact about public people. If you want to attack or spill it on a public person, fine, but keep it on-topic, and stand behind what you allege. If you have proof or evidence, put it forward. If not, at least use your real name and accept responsibility for your words. Statements of opinion like "John Doe is an idiot" are mostly acceptable, (though sometimes uncivil) but derogatory statements of fact like "John Doe mows his yard naked, and cheats on his taxes" are where this applies. Non-derogatory statements of fact like "John Doe attended Lewisville High School" are fine too, as long as they're not blatantly false.
6.No obscenity. There is a difference between profanity (ok in moderation, when not directed at other users) and obscenity (not cool). We shouldn't have to spell it out.
7.Don't post anything you don't have the rights to post. Get copyright permission or have a fair use rationale such as identification, newsworthiness, excerpt, etc.
8.Keep it on-topic. Don't post unrelated comments. Post a blog, or email one of us to suggest a topic. It's understandable that sometimes conversations drift into a somewhat-but-not-really-related topic. If that happens, we reserve the right to create a new post and ask that comments on the topic be directed there.
8(a). "Thoughts and Links" posts or other posts where the author calls it an "open thread" are wide open. Feel free to post a comment there either on or off-topic, as long as it meets the rest of the rules.
8(b). Congratulatory posts about students and other non-public people will be more strictly enforced on this point. These are posts like "Student of the Month", or "Volunteer of the Year". Don't ruin someone's moment of honor by crapping all over it. If you really want to say something negative on these, hop over to one of the semi-weekly link and open thread posts, and drop a comment there.
9.No shills or Sock Puppets. Don't pretend to be someone you aren't. Don't register multiple user accounts. We have ways to find out when people do this. If you have a user account, you're welcome to post anonymously as well, but not on a post where you've used your name. Don't mix and match anonymous and signed in the same post.
10.Know the difference between fact and opinion. If you make assertions of fact that are controversial or beyond common knowledge, we appreciate it when you can cite a source or provide a link. It's good practice all the time, and we all occasionally fail to cite, but it's especially important when it relates to something derogatory about a person. To provide a link, highlight the text you want to be your link, then click the button and paste in the link.
11.Interpretation and enforcement of the rules is at the editor's discretion. Sometimes conversations get heated and turn personal. We may not catch every problem the instant it happens, and given our disdain for censorship, we sometimes will let something go by that is borderline non-compliant. Please accept our apologies and understand that we may edit or remove comments later to get compliance, or when we've received complaints. (Although we'll never change the meaning of what you said) Sometimes we just have to ask someone to be the bigger person and let the argument stop with them abstaining from responding. Our judgement may be different from yours or the next guy's, and may vary from time to time, article to article, depending on circumstances. Them's the breaks.
Here are the posting limits set up for The Lewisville Texan: - Anonymous users can only post comments or submit a letter, but they must first be approved by a moderator. (Anonymous letter submission discontinued due to spam. This is why we can't have nice things.) - Any user with a valid email address can register. - Registered users can post comments without pre-approval. Moderators can remove these comments later for rule violations - Users who have been around for awhile and for whom we have verified their identity have blog posting privileges. Their blogs will go direct to the front page without pre-approval. - All registered users can submit Letters to the Editor. Letters may not all go to the front page, depending on editorial agreement.
Consequences: - Moderators may remove comments and posts for any violation of the rules. - Moderators may edit posts to remove copyrighted or patently offensive content. Edits will be noted as such. - Users can be removed or demoted for egregious or repeat violations. - Posters of racist, bigoted, or other reprehensible content will be mercilessly ridiculed and permanently banned. - We will post most reasonably written letters to the editor, but we will not necessarily publish them all on the front page, based on our editorial judgement of quality and relevance.
Questions and Answers: "I'm not sure if my post is allowed?" Email the webmaster: email@example.com I'm happy to review what you've got.
"But I'm afraid of retribution. People need to know what this politician is doing." If you have a tip for a news story about malfeasance or unethical behavior, send me the details by email or in a private message. I'm happy to keep your identity a secret, and we'll figure out how to substantiate your claims before posting.
"Dude, you're censoring me. What about free speech?" This is my website that I pay for out of my own pocket each month. The ads barely begin to cover my expense. Buy your own website and say whatever you want. Play by the rules, and you're welcome to post here, even if we disagree.
"You're a hypocrite. I've read posts here that crossed the line." I try to learn from my mistakes. I've deleted and/or pocketed more of my own posts than I care to disclose. There are probably more that I will delete. If you have a problem with something, leave a comment or send an email. When in doubt, see previous rule.
"This website is partisan and slanted." Yep. So? We try to be fair, but we are not unbiased. We believe that the facts often have a liberal bias. But we're more dedicated to the facts than our bias, and willing to learn when something changes that view.
But know that in areas where we do original coverage of local events, we try hard to do so in as objective a way as we can. No matter what one's philosophy or beliefs, the news consists of facts, and we all need to have the same facts. We get along quite well with some of our conservative readers who may disagree with our editorial slant, but appreciate the coverage.
"I posted a comment, but it hasn't shown up yet." I try to check the comment queue several times a day, and I approve the vast majority of comments on the spot. Most of the time, I'll approve the comment within a few hours of your posting. At times, if I'm travelling or otherwise away from the computer, it might take longer. The best thing to do is register for an account, verify your email address, then post your comment with your account.
Note: There is also an occasional technical hiccup that eats comments. It happens to me whenever I'm in the middle of composing a comment and another user submits one at the same time. When you submit a comment in this situation, instead of giving the "Thanks for your comment" message and showing you the article you were on, it redirects you to the front page of the website without comment. If this happens to you, just use the back button to go back to the comment form. Copy your comment onto the clipboard and paste it somewhere for safekeeping like in a text file on your computer. Then navigate back to the article and click the post comment or reply button again. Paste your comment in and re-submit, and most of the time it works. Every now and then, it gets so messed up that closing your browser seems to be the only way to get back into a good state.
"Why didn't you cover the story about __________?" This blog is a volunteer effort, and I can't get to everything that's important. Sometimes there are big stories that don't get any coverage because I'm busy with work or family that week. For this reason, I'm always looking for help from other writers. If you have some specific thing you like to write about, and it pertains to politics or our Southern Denton County coverage area, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Why did you allow a comment that broke the rules, but now you won't allow my comment in response to that comment." See rule #11 above. When things drift into non-compliance, I sometimes just have to pick a place to stop it. Sorry I can't please everyone all the time.
"Why didn't you reply to my comment?" It could be that we have a difference of opinion that we prefer to walk away from. It could be that we've already gone round and round and we're beating a dead horse. It could be that we need to research before responding. Or it could be just that we're really busy and it has slipped by and been buried. Rest assured we read them all and appreciate them.
Hehe ... facts have a liberal bias. I love it. And agree. I saw a placard the other day (maybe here?) that said something like, "I change my opinion when I get new information". As Voltaire said, "Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd". We seem to have a lot of absurd certainty going on in government nowdays. Glad to see your site's not in that category. The idea that "we're more dedicated to the facts than our bias" is refreshing.
Special Note About Rule #7: Use of Copyrighted Material
Just a a few notes to clarify what is needed when you post something that is copyrighted or is not your original work. There are of course volumes written on this, but I'm posting just some quick rules of thumb off the top of my head.
1. Always make sure that the source is cited by name - either publication, author or both.
2. Make sure the quoted material is clearly identified as a quote. Use the <blockquote> HTML tag, or the button in the editor, or just put quotes around it.
3. Have a fair use rationale: a. You can use about 3 - 5 paragraphs or 1/2 of the source article, whichever is smaller. b. You can sometimes use more, if the item itself is newsworthy: for instance if a person in the public light writes something that is in and of itself newsworthy because it's controversial. c. Photos can be used sparingly for identification purposes, for instance when there are no available photographs that are not subject to copyright. Then, they need to be small images.
4. If the source is online, it's good form to post a link to it.
Government documents and images are handled a little differently. If the document or image was produced at government expense, then it's public domain, and you're free to post the whole thing. But it still needs to be cited. Please contact me first if you think what you are going to post might be legally protected confidential or classified material. We do support whistle-blowing, but we also believe in following legal procedures, and protecting national defense and homeland security.
Some authors of copyrighted material may grant you permission to post large excerpts or repost entire articles. In that case, please do two things:
1) Email email@example.com in advance, and make arrangements to provide us with the proof of permission being granted. If it's by email, you can forward that. Such permission needs to acknowledge that not just you, but that The Lewisville Texan Journal, and its successors have perpetual non-exclusive rights to the material unless revoked in writing.
2) Somewhere in the post cite the source, and use the words "Reposted by permission".
Press releases can be quoted from without attribution, but if there is any chance of confusion of a press release with a news or blog post, we try to clarify by putting the words "submitted report" somewhere on the post.
Also, you may have copyrighted material which is your own original work. To avoid having your post deleted or hidden for suspicion of plagiarism, you might want to say something in your post like "I wrote this for ________ magazine, where it was originally published in _______." If you do that, make sure it's known to us who you are.
If you see material here that goes beyond fair use, or that you think is plagiarism, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a description of the material in question. Thanks for helping us stay above-board.
I had to turn off the ability for anonymous users to submit Letters to the Editor today due to a recent dramatic increase in spam. What's been happening is that spammers post awful paragraphs of gobbledygook and keywords, then post a link to whatever their ripoff scam of the day is -- usually drugs or Russian crap, but in some cases links to graphic pornography. I'm tired of having to go delete it.
Still anyone with an email address can register an account, and you can then post a Letter to the Editor.