Chronicle of Higher Education Moves Towards Limited, moderated Comment Threads

The Chronicle of Higher Education, the weekly publication subscribed to by over 64,000 academics, announced this weekend that it would begin to limit comments on its website by only opening some articles to comments, and moderating those that are submitted.

6288497038_5d4e68c0b5_o“For years The Chronicle has taken an approach to commenting that could be described as laissez-faire,” the editors wrote online. “We’ve invited comments on nearly all of our content, and we’ve moderated sparingly — seeking to give everyone a chance to speak and removing comments only when they were in clear violation of our user policy. That approach has made for some freewheeling and fascinating discussions; it has also produced threads that have bothered many readers.”

But like many websites, The Chroniclehas seen a shift away from constructive conversations online. The editors mention other sites that have decided to move the conversation off of their websites and onto social media. But The Chronicle has chosen to invest in moderating comments.

“So here’s our plan: We’re going to review contributions before posting them,” the editors said. “That means that if you submit a comment, it won’t instantly appear. Instead, a group of Chronicle moderators will read submissions throughout the workday.”

Comments on the story announcing the new policy show that any change that limits comments will be controversial with readers.

“I allowed my Chronicle subscription to lapse precisely because you weren’t doing these things already. I’m glad to hear that you are moving in this direction,” wrote one reader. Others suggested ending anonymous commenting as one possible solution to ending comments from trolls.

But others were less enthusiastic about any limits on commenting. This is something we see, as well, as most stories about closed or limited comment threads generally attracts those who feel it is a mistake (yet, more and more sites are considering changes to their open thread policies).

reposted with permission from TNM

image by Tama Leaver

D. B. Hebbard

View posts by D. B. Hebbard
Douglas Hebbard (or if you are using D.B. Hebbard use that) is a 30+ year veteran of the newspaper and magazine publishing business, and has been publisher of the digital publishing website Talking New Media since 2010.


  1. David North4 January, 2016

    I have to approve your choice. I was just talking about it all this past week. People post so that their view can be heard and for some, their own view must be imminent; above all others.

    As Washington said in his farewell:

    The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

    It applies to social issues of all sorts, and not only governance. People who will not moderate themselves ruin the forum of discussion for all.

  2. Susan4 January, 2016

    They shall “imminently” see that their click tallies were directly related to the animated commentary. No one will read CHE any longer. Good, Minding the Campus is so much better for those interested in legitimate higher ed news. Chronicle has turned into The Onion.

    1. Nate Hoffelder4 January, 2016

      No offense, but there’s a huge difference between a large publication like CHE and a blog that uses a stock WordPress theme. The latter is not a replacement for the former.

  3. David North5 January, 2016

    I think the number of posts may drop dramatically in response to their choice but the number of posters, not so much.

    The majority of people upset at this are going to be primarily the ones it is targeted at. And they will howl about it–since that’s what they do everywhere they post. The Chronicle comes out ahead.


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