Beginning this week, there will be no more anonymous comments on TimesDispatch.com.It has always been a mystery to me as to why newspapers began to allow anonymous trolls to post to their sites in the first place instead of following the same strict rules used for letters to the editor. Letter writers must include their address and phone number and may receive a phone call to verify, and letters follow a certain rule of decorum.
The anonymous troll problem is not just at the Richmond Times-Dispatch but also at the Staunton News Leader and the Waynesboro News Virginian as well as newspapers nationwide.
Personal attacks, name-calling, and slanderous rants are common and, quite frankly, beneath the dignity of any reputable publication, something I wrote about in 2007 ("The trolls at the Staunton News Leader") and again last week ("Leaders lead ... anonymous blog trolls cower").
Most trolls have an agenda, as noted recently when anonymous News Leader commenters slammed a local Augusta County supervisor with random accusations. However, when the supervisor left a comment that included his phone number and address along with an offer to talk personally with the anonymous commenters about any issues of concern to them, it was ignored. Instead, they changed their tactic and rationalized it was a conspiracy to uncover who they were so they could be attacked, and continued with the cowardly comments. That is not a quest for knowledge; that is an agenda.
Such is the irrational reasoning of trolls who wish to remain hidden in the shadows. It would be nice to see the local newspapers make anonymous commenters accountable by requiring their real names just as they do for letters to the editor.
Meanwhile, thanks to the Richmond Times-Dispatch for being a leader in restoring civilized behavior to the internet ... at least as far as newspaper commenting.