Tampa Bay Times gets with the times and institutes a new commenting system

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For almost four years, beginning with the infamous post in which I called the St. Petersburg Times the c-word, I’ve held out hope that the Times would take responsibility for what is said on its website and institute a reader commenting system that avoids purely anonymous comments.

In 2009, I wrote, as part of a semi-public spate with a handful of Times editors and writers, that:

“to allow anonymous commentary on the most important issues facing a city, thereby giving the commenter the imprimatur of my once beloved newspaper, is the worst form of journalism. It will not be long before someone’s life is damaged or even taken because of what is said, mostly in anonymity, by the posters on the (blogs).

A friend of mine in politics has already lost his job because of what was said about him and his boss (although I blame his boss as much for not defending him against what was said). And yet, the Times’ editors of these blogs continue to allow anonymous posters to write libelous, offensive comments…

God forbid, but unfortunately, a time will come, just as when the man killed his wife because she changed her marital stauts on her Facebook profile, when someone is going to say the wrong thing about the wrong person. And all hell is going to break loose.

… Eliminate anonymous posting — now.”

Fortuantely, the Times has done something about the situation, albeit four years later.

Today, the editors of the Timeswebsite introduced Gigya, their new online commenting tool, “to create a more personalized experience, simplify sharing and promote a responsible and richer online community. The new features include an interactive suite of new tools and a revamped commenting system.”

Reader comments are now linked to a social network account, which all but elimintes anonymous commenting.

Better late than never.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.