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Dailies aim to lure commenters away from social media with new feature

Graham HubandTwo sister dailies have launched a new online comments facility in a bid to attract debaters who want a “better atmosphere” than social media.

The Dundee Courier and Evening Telegraph have announced the launch of the new facility, which will allow registered users to interact with editors and journalists on their shared website.

The new forum will allow readers to “keep tabs on the chats, journalists and commenters that interest you most”, with tags appearing on articles to show there is an active conversation.

Its launch was announced by Graham Huband, DC Thomson’s managing editor for Dundee, in an editorial.

In his piece, he referenced the recent Twitter takeover bid by Elon Musk, the world’s richest person.

Graham, pictured, wrote: “On some sites, a vocal minority who rely on offensive, bullying, foul-mouthed ranting to push their agendas have made going ‘below the line’ an unattractive idea.

“The takeover of one of the world’s biggest social media platforms by the globe’s richest man has also thrown the spotlight back on the issue of just how ‘free’ speech should be.

“Making the Courier somewhere you can rely on finding a better atmosphere – without stifling a robust debate in which people can freely speak their minds – has therefore been a big part of our planning.

“We are confident that between our moderation tools and your good judgment, we can create something that bucks the trend and becomes an example for others to follow.”

Graham added: “Our new forum will allow you to be part of the conversation on issues that matter to you.

“We have also carefully designed the forum to help make it a welcoming arena that encourages constructive, polite debate.

“Most of us enjoy a sensible and informed chat about important topics – the chance to hear and learn from a range of people with different opinions greatly benefits us collectively.

“Readers have a wealth of personal insights, specialist knowledge and experience to share, all of which feed into the reporting that we do and help to forge positive change.”

In introducing the feature, the DC Thomson-owned titles have bucked something of a trend in the industry in recent years for hosting comment facilities.

In 2018, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus removed the ability for readers to comment on its stories, claiming extremists were using them to “sow the seeds of division”.

Two years later, the Nottingham Post also replaced its system with a new registration regime aimed at encouraging “more constructive conversations.”