Editor's Blog - How we work, how we make decisions, how we serve Canadians.

Jennifer McGuire

General Manager and Editor in Chief

Addressing your Concerns about Commenting

Categories: Journalism


One of the words journalists think about most is "change." 

So many of the stories we tell look at how change affects people's lives. That has been illustrated profoundly this week on the streets of Cairo. But change -- or the prospect of change -- is at the heart of questions around politics, the economy and social mores.

Of course, the staff at CBC News have to deal with other kinds of change: investigative reporting changes our understanding of an issue; breaking news means entire programs have to shift on a dime; a playoff game in triple overtime changes when a show goes to air.

Then there's the kind of change that our audience notices most: when the service we provide you is different from before. It's almost a given that some people will love it, and some people will ... not.

Last week, we made a few tweaks to the system for people to comment about our stories on the CBC website. I wrote about it in this very blog. Although we're working through the inevitable bumps of a new system, we're already quite pleased with how the changes are working. It's not a surprise, though, that some of you have expressed concerns.

One of the most common points of concern has been the removal of our old "comment rating" system. We used to offer you a chance to give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to other people's comments. Now there's a "like" button, but not a "dislike." That raised the ire of some users. One wrote to us, saying "a conspiracy theorist might wonder if this change in comment format is ... motivated by the desire to eliminate the clear and obvious disagreement many readers have with the policies of the current federal government."

Rest assured, our motivation is much more benign! And the positive reaction from many other users explains why. Over the years, some people have shied away from posting comments for fear of being condemned by others. We want to do whatever we can to bring those people into the conversation by fostering and building positive dialogue. If everyone has room to participate, there's going to be a better conversation. Don't worry, there's still plenty of room for disagreement and debate. And there's still plenty of room to flag for review any comments that you think are inappropriate. This format is much more in line with industry trends -- for instance, it's been well-documented that Facebook doesn't offer a "dislike" button.

One of the other features we now offer that we hope you like is to notify you by email when someone replies to a comment you've made. We think it will foster debate and discussion on the topics that inspire you the most. A few people have written to us because they worry their email address is being shared. It isn't.

Your information is kept confidential, and this change doesn't pose any threat to your online privacy. You also have the ability to stop receiving the notifications by indicating so in your Community profile, or just clicking "unsubscribe." For more detail on that, or other questions you might have, check out the FAQs.

The bottom line for us is that the new commenting system is meant to help conversation rather than hinder it. We believe that it will deepen the connection our community has both with our content and with each other. A commitment to pursue that deeper connection is a constant for us, no matter how much change is happening in our newsroom, our neighbourhoods and our country.

Tags: How We Work

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