When we added commenting and diaries to OpEdNEws, we included the ability to sign up with a real name but also to use a handle or pseudonym, which is the widely adopted way of many blog sites.
But first and foremost, we're a news and opinion media site. Technorati has told us that they won't allow us to claim our blog, because they categorize us as a media site.
While it has become "usual and customary" to sign comments and diaries on blog sites with handles, You don't sign an article with a handle. Part of the privlege of being a media site is we are spidered by the major news sites. Yahoo took up over 40 gigabytes of bandwidth, spidering us in July alone. These major news sites expect high standards for articles. Google says it only spiders 4500 media sites. Those sites include daily newspapers, Time, Newsweek, Asahi Shimbun, Guardian, Haaretz, New York TImes, and... OpEdNews.com. We have to maintain standards that keep us in that small circle of approved media.
Requiring the use of a real name will probably cost us some writers. But it will also increase our credibility and the trust readers have in what we publish.
We live in a time when the mainstream media, which I call the lamestream media, have repeatedly let us down and disappointed. Millions have turned to both the blogosphere and the new alternative media. By definition, as new media, we are in a stage of development and self definition, figuring out who we are and how we work.
As one of the higher traffic new media sites, we have a big responsibility to get what we do right, so people CAN depend upon and trust what we report and weigh in with opinions on. Requiring people to use their real names adds accountability to our process. When you see a reporter's name on a NY Times article, you can assume that the personnel department has on file, a photo, social security number, and all kinds of info that confirms who this person is.
At OpEdNews, we haven't gone that far... yet. But our goal is to build a media/community blog that also earns a reputation as a brand for integrity and trustworthiness. That takes rules and self regulation. We'll be trying out ideas. Some will work. Some will not and we'll cancel them and try other things. But being at the leading edge of the new media, and intending to be conscious in our development, not only of our content, but also of how we work, who we are and what we do, this kind of self evaluation and continual evolving of rules and policies is an essential part of our responsibility.
At this time, we will be moving with gradual steps. We will allow continued use of handles for most diaries and comments. It looks like, for writers who use some words that are abused, we may require use of real names (we'll use software to do that) if they use those words, so they can't hide behind handles. If you are known, on other sites, by your handle, you'll be able to include that in your bio.
The editorial team at OpEdNews has concluded that we're not allowing any articles to be signed with handles, with one exception, a writer and project partner we've been working with for several years, and we know who that person is. We will consider pen names on an individual basis, and most likely grandfather some.
When we instituted the policy, we will not do it retroactively, so those who have posted in the past with pseudonyms will not be revealed. But since the new articles will be appearing with real names, some users may choose to create new accounts. We'll send out at least two emails to all members to warn you before we implement this change.
But I want to put this out to our readers too. What do you think about this?
What about requiring real names on diaries? Yes or No? The thought is that this will increase accountability and civility and reduce nastiness and "hit-and-run" unpleasant comments.
And what about requiring real names for comments? There are a number of options here--
we can require real names for comments on articles but handles on diaries.
We can require real names on all content.
Here's your chance to participate in the decision making process. Have at it. But please, and I shouldn't have to see it, but find it necessary, do it with a civil tongue.