10 Rules of Commenting

WitnessLA fully believes that a lively and diverse community of commenters makes a news site and/or blog a much richer and more valuable place for all concerned.

But, as the site’s editor, I have learned through trial and error that a system of comment moderation is a necessary tool to promote healthy discussion, simply because sometimes, when cloaked by anonymity, people behave in a way that they would not do otherwise.


Rule #1: Be civil to and respectful of other commenters. No ad hominem attacks. Discuss or argue issues, do not attack people.

Rule #2: When in doubt, use the Living Room Rule.

If you come into the house—AKA WitnessLA— and behave rudely to a guest at the nice party in the living room, I will ask you to stop. If you continue, you’ll be escorted to the door, and I will tell the big, bad, heavily armed bouncer not to let you back in. Basically, the living room rule means that you should behave as if you’re an invited guest at a lively salon in my living room. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Be civil. Don’t attack people personally. This is a dinner party. Not a food fight.

And just to be clear, if someone attacks you, you don’t have permission to start throwing crockery back. Ignore them. I’ll deal with them—either sooner or later. Send me an email, if you like. If you both trash the living room, I won’t care who started it. Both of you will get tossed.

Rule #3: Racist, sexist, homophobic or generally hate filled comments have no place here.

Ditto hateful or slanderous generalizations about one cultural group, religion, nationality, or occupation.

“It was only a joke,” and “You have no sense of humor,” doesn’t excuse hateful comments. If you were genuinely misinterpreted, a quick, sincere apology may set things right. A rationalization or shouts of PC Police! will not.

Demonization of any kind is what this site stands against.

Rule #4: Don’t attack the host.

Disagree with me as the editor or any of WitnessLA’s reporters or contributors all you want. But attack me—or any of the other regular bloggers and reporters that WLA is gradually adding— and you’re gone. No warnings.

Be smart. You’re in someone else’s house.

Rule #5: Be yourself. Don’t impersonate other commenters.

Rule # 6: Stay on topic, at least within reason. And don’t over post.

If you somehow manage to turn every topic into an opportunity to deliver version #479 of your favorite rant, expect not to be here very long.

By the same token, if you are posting five times as much as everyone else, you are the loudmouth in the room high jacking the conversation. Dial it back

Rule #7: Don’t whine about Rules 1-6.

Comment control is not “censorship.” As Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune put it, shooing someone from the room is not the same as trying to silence him or her. Don’t like the rules here? No problem. I wish you godspeed as you take yourself and your comments elsewhere.

Rule # 8: If you break any of the rules, I will likely (operative word: likely) give you a warning—and/or delete your comment. If you persist, I’ll ban you from the site.

This doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It simply means I’ve determined that—for whatever reason— you are not willing to be part of a lively, thoughtful, decorous discussion in which all members treat the others—even those with whom they passionately disagree—as they would wish to be treated.

Rule # 9: Enforcement of the rules will be subjective.

If I’ve had enough sleep, I may be more be tolerant. If I’m over-tired and you piss me off, tolerance vaporizes without warning.

Rule #10: In summation, to paraphrase what The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates said in his own list of commenting rules:Don’t be a jerk and we’ll be fine.

Sincerely yours,

Celeste Fremon, editor