NewsWorks seeks to be an oasis for lively, smart, civil discussion of issues and events. That's why we've set these guidelines for the NewsWorks online community.

In the end, a community works only to the degree that its members put in the effort to make it work. No high-traffic, public website can absolutely prevent trolls and flamers from doing what they do. We can't absolutely guarantee that an unseemly digital fight will never break out. We can only do so much to keep the peace. With the help of the bulk of readres who want the NewsWorks community to become that oasis, we can build something valuable.

Now, here's how the lawyers put it, in the necessary language:

The following text serves as the official community discussion guidelines for users of WHYY’s newsworks.org (the “Website”). All participants in the Website’s community discussion tools, social networking features, story/blog commenting, and other forums are required to follow these rules, in addition to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy for all WHYY Websites. WHYY has the right, although not the obligation, to block users, remove comments, or otherwise take steps to maintain the Website in keeping with its mission.

Now, for the guidelines: If you can't be polite, don't say it

WHYY in no way wishes to stifle discussion of controversial issues and does not expect all users to agree with one another or with WHYY/NewsWorks staff. Debate is fine; it is expected. But let us all try to disagree without being disagreeable. That way, even in argument, we can learn from one another. Remarks should be focused on positions, not personalities — no personal attacks, name calling, libel, defamation, hate speech, etc. If you disagree with someone, it is so much more powerful to explain why you do, based on your values and experiences, than to simply sling insults. And under no circumstances should anything be posted that could be construed by reasonable people as threatening, harassing, bullying, obscene, pornographic, sexist or racist.

You may not be able to persuade other readers that you are right and they are wrong. That's OK. Nice try, anyway. It you reach an impasse, don't worry. You can move on, your opponent can move on, and life for the rest of us can move on as well.

Don't use obscenities

Even if a particular word is often used in conversation, these are public forums and we want everyone to feel comfortable participating.

Don't violate copyright

It is a very good thing to link to relevant content and to information you believe supports your post. We encourage you to do that. It makes a far more persuasive argument than when someone asserts facts with no backup. But we have to insist that you observe the rules of copyright and fair use: you may quote only limited excerpts from other people’s work, with attribution. If you want to point to something beyond an excerpt, provide a link. Do not copy and paste another person's work in its entirety.

Please stay on topic, be clear and concise

Please limit your comments to those that are relevant to the topic being discussed and to no more than a few paragraphs.

Please respect other readers' privacy

While it is interesting to learn about new individuals, please do not share another’s contact information through WHYY’s discussion threads or social networking features.

This is not a place for advertising, promotion, recruiting, campaigning, lobbying, soliciting or proselytizing

Feel free to share your ideas and experiences about religion, politics, or other issues, as well as your views about relevant products or services. There is a fine line between discussing and campaigning, though. Please use your best judgment.

What we're doing to encourage a civil space — and how you can help

First off, to comment on NewsWorks articles, readers are required to sign on with an existing social media account (Twitter, Facebook or Google+) or to create an account on the commenting platform Disqus with a verifiable email address. We do this to encourage commenters to be honest about their identities. 

Second, you are invited to up-vote or down-vote comments using the up and down arrows next to each comment. Up votes are public acknowledgements of approval for your comment. Down votes let trolls or flamers know that the community does not appreciate what they are doing. But don't fear retaliation for down votes. Commenters can see who up-votes their comments, but they cannot see who down-votes.

Users have the ability to change the order in which comments are displayed. The options are to sort by "oldest," "newest" or "best." The default display is chronological, with the oldest comments at the top. Sorting by best moves down-voted comments toward the bottom.

Third, users may flag a comment that seems to violate any of these guidelines. Click the flag icon. Flagging a comment does not guarantee that it will be removed; it only means it will get a moderator's attention. Flagging a comment is only counted once per person. A comment that receives three flags will automatically be withheld from display, but only a moderator can delete a comment.

So, don't feed the trolls

We encourage users to report abuse by trolls, the people who seek only to foment and insult. But we ask that you not engage with trolls in the comment threads. Acknowledging them only encourages them.

News tips

While news tips from the public are welcome, NewsWorks/WHYY reserves the right not to publicize rumors, allegations, conspiracy information or other information we believe to be false or unsubstantiated. Also, don’t post anything on the website posing as someone else.

Public forums are not for individual communications

Most bylines include an email address or Twitter handle to communicate directly with a reporter or writer. 

You are solely responsible for the content you post

WHYY is not responsible for the content posted by users. We do not and cannot review all user content posted on WHYY websites. However, we do have the right, but not the obligation, to review, screen, delete, and/or move any content posted by users. For additional information about what is and is not permitted on the website, please see our Terms of Service.

We will not edit comments. If part of an otherwise perfectly acceptible comment violates these guidelines, we will delete the entire comment, not just the offensive part.