The Telegraph provided a great example last weekend of how a community host, whilst never really in charge, does have a critical role in setting the tone of the discussion.
It’s fair to point out that The Telegraph (surprisingly to some) is doing a good job of managing ‘the conversation’. In terms of moderation and ‘freedom of comment’, I’d say they’re doing a better job than The Guardian (which is more widely admired). For instance, the Guardian’s policy on allowing comments on news stories, rather than Comment is Free, seems to be determined by authors and whether they’re up for it. The Telegraph would appear to to be more permissive.
The story Words associated with Christianity and British history taken out of children’s dictionary had a specific angle and that lead the tone of the commenters. The story might more accurately have bemoaned the removal of dozens of ‘nature words’ from the childrens’ dictionary. But where would be the journalistic or editorial fun in that?
But the conversation would have been different. As it stands, the tone and content of many comments has been vile and The Telegraph’s competant moderation has shown the cool head and swift, deft hand required. The worst comments have been deleted, and quickly, whilst some quite horrid but acceptable contributions, quite rightly remain. The balance and judgment has been impeccable. That’s moderation, folks.