Saturday, July 29, 2006

Jerusalem Post's Talkback Is A Model For Other Newspapers

--Written from Ashland, Oregon

Of all the coverage of the war between Israel and Hezbollah, that in the Jerusalem Post is the probably the most comprehensive and is quite straight forward. There is less bias in JPost articles than in the New York Times.

But one feature in the JPost is particularly noteworthy, and that is its "Talkback" where readers can state their opinions on leading articles, expressing themselves not at length, but either in one line or a very long paragraph.

The newspaper is posting these by the hundreds each day, and it has some simple ground rules that are easy to understand. All who participate must register, but there is no charge. I surmise that the JPost is monitoring Talkback to be sure its rules are adhered to, so as to avoid the obscenity that doomed the L.A. Times' attempt at allowing readers to edit editorials, Wikipedia I think it was called, after only one or two days.

Those participating in Talkback agree not to post anything "libelous, defamatory. obscene, portnographic. abusive or otherwise illegal."

"Jerusalem Post encourages active discussions and debates in the Forums," the JPost states in its written policy. "However, personal attacks on other Participants or non-Participants are a direct violation of this project and shall be subject to immediate and permanent denial of access to all or part of the Talkback."

Other rules include no advertising of commercial products, no links to other websites, and the participants agree to hold the paper blameless in any legal actions resulting from what they write. Also, only first names or other brief identifications are used, along with the country of origin.

Still, even with these rules, the discussion is very lively and direct. Many participants do not mince words, and there are frequent comments on what prior Talkbackers have posted. Probably, most of the participants are Americans, but there are postings from many countries, because the Jerusalem Post Website is naturally available throughout the world. There are a few Arab postings.

This is an impressive feature that other papers could well emulate. I think it would serve the interests of any paper well.

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