Calling all trolls: you'll have to come to our forum to comment next week

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We're inviting our trolls to come out from under the bridge, join our forum, and defend your domain.

We are all very excited about our July 31 public forum on the future of the Bay Guardian and progressive journalism in the Bay Area. We’ve already received lots of great community support and input since our recent turmoil and leadership transition — and we want even more feedback as we work to rejuvenate the paper.

But there is one piece of advice that we’ve received over and over again from readers: do something about the trolls that pollute our comments section. So we’ve decided to turn that input into a little week-long experiment starting on the day of the forum. As we post next week’s Guardian here at sfbg.com, we will disable the comments on the stories and in our blog posts that week.

We always welcome reader input and we appreciate thoughtful commentary, criticism, and debate on our stories, which we’ve seen plenty of this week, particularly in our posts on the Giants labor impasse, Board President David Chiu, privatization of the Botanical Gardens, problems at SFDPH, racial profiling, and our editorial on democracy, as well as on last week’s op-eds on the Trayvon Martin aftermath.

Unfortunately, under the Guardian’s bridge live a few nasty trolls who hate everything that we and our progressive community do and are usually the quickest to comment on the things we write, often making the same pointed, off-topic criticisms, over and over again. Sometimes it’s racist, usually it’s reactionary, often it’s self-indulgent, and it always lowers the level of debate on our site.

Many of our regular readers and supporters have repeatedly told us the often toxic nature of these discussions chases them away and needlessly undermines the reporting and information that precedes it. Sometimes, we’ve seen organized misinformation campaigns from anonymous but clearly self-interested parties that post to our site, as we’ve seen in our coverage of Airbnb’s legal troubles and tax avoidance.

So in addition to all of our proud, loyal, flesh-and-blood readers, we’re hereby inviting all of our trolls -- Matlock, Lucretia Snapples, Anon, and all the rest -- to come to our forum and defend your domain. Among the many orders of business at the forum, we will consider changing our online comment policies and registration system, particularly as we redesign our website this fall.

If you want to comment next week, you’re going to have to come to our forum. Or you can always send us good, old-fashioned letters to the editor, either through email (steve@sfbg.com or marke@sfbg.com) or snail mail. Then, in our Aug. 7 issue, we’ll devote a page or two in the paper to those letters and the input that we receive at the forum.

We’ll probably just leave our comments turned off for one week — but you never know. So for now, let us know what you think as we rethink our approach at the Guardian. And please stop by our event page on Facebook and let us know that you’re coming to the event on July 31 from 6-8pm on the fourth floor of the LGBT Center, 1800 Market Street ... if you dare.