Who are we hearing from - and does it matter? It does

By Pepper Parr

March 17th, 2022



Earlier this month I made the decision to hold comments sent to us from a specific Internet Protocol address that was being used by two different names.

We suspected the two names wwere being used by the same person.

Our comments section is populated with boisterous, well informed people who comment at length. Frequently there is an exchange of views that goes on for a week or two.

We also get offensive, even libelous comments which we delete.  We have, on a few occasions, taken away the opportunity to comment.

Many online publications that have a comment section ensure that they have identified the writer and are satisfied they are real people.

I am always dismayed when a writer does not have the courage of their convictions and chooses to use a phony name.

Many of the comments made are from people who strongly support a particular viewpoint; we welcome those.

Some commentators take us to task for an article they feel was unfair or biased, we welcome those as well.

The general rule is: know your client – it applies to almost everything.  People who comment in the Gazette are not clients but we feel it is important that we know who they are – our concern is not with what they wish to say.

I don’t know Maggie or Mary.  One of them claims that there are a number of people writing under a nom de plumes – that may be true – we just don’t have the resources to track down every person who comments nor is it our objective.

We did on one occasion allow a person to identify as anonymous.  The person was commenting on a position the City Manager at the time had taken on how he would support his Staff during a very contentious municipal election.

The writer took exception with the City Manager’s position because the writer held a very senior position in another level of government, and was not authorized to speak for that level of government: the person could not use their own name.

Senior bureaucrats are discouraged from taking public positions.

In one comment made by Mary an adjective was used that we didn’t see as offensive. The person being referred to saw it differently.  They claimed it was a hate comment and wanted a criminal investigation.

The writer of the adjective apologized and we saw the matter as closed.

We however are still in the position of not knowing who the writers are.  We did reach out to talk to them – we do that frequently with names we are not certain are legitimate. Mary did not take up the chance for a discussion

It  got messy.

In the past I have come close to closing down the comments section.  While I think it is critically important, vital even, that people have a place where they can say what they think and where their peers can respond, monitoring the comments is a significant draw on our limited resources.

There are readers who ask:  “Does this really matter?  Loads of blogs on social media are not the real names of the authors.”

True enough, but the Gazette is not a blog; it is a credentialed on line newspaper that has been publishing for more than ten years.

A reader added: “Younger readers and bloggers often use pseudonyms, it’s no big deal. People are just having their say. Many actors, rappers and people with maiden names even though they are married, use different names and surnames.

“These women may be in some sort of relationship. There is also Anne and David Marsden, two people under one name. How do you know who it is commenting on the article, is it Anne or David? Now there is a comment on here just from David. Do David and Anne have the same IP address? If so, how can they be allowed to use the same IP address?”

The difference is that we know that David Marsden is real and we know that Anne Marsden is real.

“This could be an identical situation” said the writer, “some people have separate email addresses and some use a joint address.

“Lives are changing, we should all try to change or at least acknowledge changes. “… a good editor means keeping up with the changing times. I’m sure as I get older I may find it more difficult, too.”

I still do not know if Mary is not the same as Maggie; just saying they are is not enough.  I need to KNOW that they are.

There is no discrimination here.  Convince me that you are who you say you are and I am a happy camper.

I publish the Gazette, pay for it out of my pocket, and I am responsible for the content.

I would hope that those who choose to comment be responsible enough to properly identify themselves.


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5 comments to Who are we hearing from – and does it matter? It does

  • Steve W.

    It’s pretty easy to validate email accounts by having a code sent to the email address when signing up, that has to be responded to by the recipient to complete setup an account. CBC allowed anonymous comments for a while but eventually required people to register. You should do the same … to sign in and register their name and email addresses with a validation required. Your current method doesn’t truly protect you as you can put any email in. People could still register with any name but at least you would now there is a valid email address.

  • Bob

    Marshall Mcluen said many years ago, “the medium is the message”

    My reason for mentioning a quote from 1964 is that it is still relevant. It isn’t about who writes the story, every newspaper in Canada has an unsigned editorial page. It isn’t about WHO is writing what, it is about what is written. Be it a comment or the story. The medium should be he message, not who is delivering it, as that has no bearing on what is said.

  • Just to add to this readers should be aware that all comments from Anne and Dave Marsden are from both of tbem. One types the other reviews and agreed upon changes are made. We believe in tbe very old fashiondd biblical principle that we became one when we were married.. Everhthing we do is a joint decision we only have joint banking accounts. The Dave Marsden is on an old non-existent email address that comes up for some unknown reason. Anne’s proudest moment was back in 1966 when she received her first letter addressed to Mrs. David Marsden. We are repeatedly referred to as the Marsdens and our upming book series is called marsdens.ca. The issue as Pepper saya is one of honesty and readers knowing you are who you say you are.

  • Cathy Lanc

    Once again, I so agree with your viewpoint! One thing that should not change with the times, is the integrity to take ownership for your thoughts and comments. It is also important to be respectful. In one of the comments I made, the word “henchmen” came to mind, but I changed the word to “team member”, because the first is offensive. My son always tells me to be my best self- I can still do this if I have a critical comment to make.