Over the last year, one area of our site that I have been paying close attention to is our comments.

Back in February, I shared our findings from studying six months’ worth of comments on our website. We found that a handful of people — five, actually — were responsible for more than 60 percent of all posts to our articles. In total, about 260 people participated in a six-month period, which is not bad necessarily, but it is a number we’d like to see grow.

Comments have value. They give us insight into how our readers interpret and respond to the news itself, which in turn helps us understand what some of our audience cares about. They also give readers a way to provide instant feedback on our news judgment and on the quality of our work. The comment section also creates a space where journalist and reader can have a conversation.

For many years, we’ve had two streams of conversation — one on our website, another on our social media platforms. The two are vastly different worlds when it comes to participation. My hope is to bring some of that engagement back into our website. We want to increase the number of comments, the quality of debate and the diversity of participants.

To that end, on Aug. 1, we will switch our online comment system to one provided by Facebook. What that means is that you will no longer need an account with our website to comment. You will need a Facebook account, however.

If you don’t want to use a Facebook account, your voice still matters. We will always accept letters to the editor, and on important topics, we will set up ways to share comments without an account.

There are other platforms out there for managing comments, but Facebook aligns the most with our community policies of requiring real names, encouraging civility and preventing spamming and trolling.

If you have any questions about this change, please comment below or send me an email at dulinm@missouri.edu.

  • I'm director of community outreach for the Columbia Missourian.

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