A note from Bridge about reader comments

David Zeman is senior editor at Bridge.

Here at Bridge we love reader comments on our website. At their best, they broaden perspectives, create a more intimate forum to engage with our audience and absolutely make our journalism better.  

But we’ve noticed with alarm that in recent months that way too many submissions have fallen short of our standards for thoughtful commentary that can advance civic debate. 

Here are some examples of comments that make our website monitors sad: The use of words like Nazi, comparisons with Nazis, even comparing someone favorably with Nazis, is not a promising signal that your sentiments will elevate conversation. Informing commenters or Bridge reporters they suck, are idiots, or would benefit from performing an act that is physically harmful likewise falls short. Political insults with words ending in -turd are not only conversation stoppers but lack the cleverness to slide past our vigilant gatekeepers. 

For commenters who want to be critical of Bridge articles or the people and institutions we write about: Have at it. 

Want to be angry or passionate about political turns in state government? We’re all ears (and eyes). 

All we ask is that you allow the logic and wonderfulness of your writing to carry your argument, rather than personal attacks, name-calling, threats of violence, hate speech, dog whistles or broad stereotypes. 

Vulgarity or obscenities, while personally cathartic, are prohibited and we will remove them from our website, along with their authors. For what it’s worth, we also frown on SHOUTING, drive-by putdowns or diatribes that exceed the length of the articles you are eviscerating. 

If we can keep these guidelines in mind, Bridge’s website comment section will continue on swimmingly. If personal attacks continue to flood our comments section, we will be forced to end it, which would be a significant loss for Bridge readers, reporters and editors. We thank you for reading, for writing and for caring about the topics we cover. If you have any questions, or just need someone to name-call, please send your comments my way instead at dzeman@bridgemi.com

To report comments, abuse, users or SPAM on our social media accounts, follow these links: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

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Mon, 06/22/2020 - 8:45am

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I read comments to learn other people's opinions. Why do they see things differently than I do? Cursing and bullying close down the discussion. And no one benefits.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 8:45am

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I read comments to learn other people's opinions. Why do they see things differently than I do? Cursing and bullying close down the discussion. And no one benefits.

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 4:47pm

"Think about the children!" LOL

This is a clear path to censorship.

Dan Meisler
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 8:46am

There are some things going on in this country that are validly comparable to what happened under the Nazis in Germany. Neo-Nazis are emboldened to be more aggressive under our current president. I would hope the editors of the Bridge would not reflexively disparage or reject reader comments that point these things out.

Paula Cate
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 1:26pm

Having witnessed the incremental ways that freedoms are lost under tyrants in the name of “Keeping you safe,” I feel that our current governor has drastically reduced our liberties. Once lost, it’s hard to regain a freedom.

Vince Salmon
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 1:38pm

Unfortunately derogatory comments by readers (as seen above) are only meant to debase opponents and provide no usable commentary on any subject.

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 9:24pm

When we were little our parents told us "Chevy" was a bad word. Everyone in our family worked for Ford. We're all adults here. We can handle bad words. When people use words like "Nazi" it shows us exactly how they think and we need to know how crazy people think in order to protect ourselves from them. I'd rather hear know the truth than deal with sociopaths that hide their true thoughts.

Robert Honeyman
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 1:38pm

Rare comments of that sort may be appropriate. Regular use of the comparison may suggest an agenda. And certainly engaging in ad hominems with other writers would be completely inappropriate.

Just my take FWIW...

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 4:03pm

It does seem that way. Many feel that this president is an obstacle to that movement and are showing how much the threat of freedom and thought are to a movement of total control. Many support this president to stop exactly that. Just many don't agree with where that threat is coming from. Whole point of the article is to go ahead and have that conversation, as it's important, but do it with a certain level of maturity.

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 4:24pm

Dan you are spot on and totally correct to counter the editors Nazi comments. He is attempting to limit our freedom of speech and ignore history around the world.

Read History
Wed, 06/24/2020 - 9:34pm

Amen, and that Benedict Arnold is literally selling us out to the highest foreign bidders to get himself reelected and to enrich himself.

Marsha Haase
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 8:50am

Thank you, it's happening on many, many sites.

Debra Williamson
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 8:50am

Thank you for requesting civility from humanity.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 8:59am

Thank you...... civility is becoming a lost way to communicate. I like to hear from critical thinkers but when people stoop to name calling and ridiculing....... where can you go from there.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 9:02am

Thank you for keeping the peace. I enjoy your reads very much.

Ann Giese
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 9:07am

Thank you! I have always enjoyed the Bridge for its detailed reporting on Michigan news and the opinions and events of Michiganders. Lately the comments section seems to be filled with gossipmongers and bullies...which is probably due to too much time on our hands! Hopefully good weather and a safe reopening of Michigan’s economy will cure the time issue and bad moods.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 9:10am

And all the behavior in this article continues to feed the stereotype that Conservatives are hate-mongering, uneducated, dopes. Have some class when you disagree.

Disgruntled Taxpayer
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 10:20am

And there's always one person who ruins the thread with the "all the inappropriate behavior is on one side" argument.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 4:12pm

No, I think they were pointing out exactly the opposite.

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 12:09pm

Conservative? What’s that? I believe they are extinct!

Rosanne Thomas
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 9:29am

Thank you! If our nation is going to become "one" again for "great" again, we need to have civil discourse. We all need to be open to learning and broadening our horizons. Sometimes that means reading something even if the headline is not about what you believe. I feel those who resort to name-calling etc. are acting out of anger. When you act or write out of anger, you convince no-one of your point.

Fire with Fire
Wed, 06/24/2020 - 9:31pm

I agree with you, but Democrats who take the high road usually lose. They appear weak and the Republicans use that perception to their advantage suggesting the candidates are not strong enough to lead our nation. I remember when they said Mondale, Dukakis , Kerry were "milquetoast". Now we see them doing the same thing with Biden.

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 10:19am

I believe it is "time" for people to sit down together and "brainstorm" for what is best for a majority of the community of people. When our children were in school, I found it best, when issues arose, to meet with the teacher, child, us as parents, and in some cases a non partisan mediator. This process allowed for "true and honest" discussion of whatever issue there was, with a plan going forward to correct or address future issues. That sort of discourse has worked in most situations since as well. Screaming at one another, or tyrannical decisions seldom brings people together, if ever. Lack of respecting others, whether with COVID mask wearing, or different beliefs, nationalities, or whatever seems to get under someones craw...gets us nowhere except more chaos, distrust and hatred. We Americans try to tell others how to live...but our example needs a LOT of polish to remove our tarnish. We need to sit down and "LISTEN" to others in order to better understand instead of "believing " it's only our way or the highway. I believe it was St. Augustine who said, "speak the gospel often, sometimes use words." Basically, "live what you preach..."

Barb Machulis
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 9:32am

Thank you for “reminding” people to use their manners!!! It seems a rare quality today to be able to speak kindly, or express an opposite opinion in a civilized manner.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 9:36am

This article is great!
Words ending in -turd made me laugh uncontrollably.
Civility is key. Both sides of arguments have valid points, and it’s good to have an honest discussion.

Keep up the great work

Bob Balwinski
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 9:40am

Thank you!! I enjoy reading comments that support a viewpoint with facts. Name calling is NOT a cogent argument against or for any views. Again, thank you. I hope you don't have to go the way of MLive and ban comments period.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 9:45am

Thank you for setting a higher level of expectation. Reading comments can be a miserable experience that are not intended to be constructive in any way. Kudos!

Vic Doucette
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 9:50am

We'd all be better off in the long run if, as was once mandatory at newspapers where I worked, those submitting comments (aka letters to the editor) had to be identified by city and state when they commented and their identity had to be confirmed by the publication before their comments were printed.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 2:11pm

I’d forgotten about that practice. It provided 2 safeguards against incivility: a lack of anonymity and a delay before publication. Both are missing in most online discourse today. The best online discussions usually involve some mild moderation from human staff, though of course that costs money.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 4:20pm

In theory, I agree. In practice, it's very effective tool for censorship.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 10:01am

Agree or disagree with a point of view. But thank you David Zeman for asking those who comment to do it with some civility.
A wise man once said " To disagree but still remain friends is a sign of superior intelligence". I can't imagine anyone is going to win someone else over to their point of view, or at least reach some middle ground, by insulting, degrading and trying to humiliate the other person.
I enjoy reading some of the comments and want to thank those of you who do comment but take the high road and keep it civil.

Tim Densham
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 10:13am

I agree with the article. However, I suggest limiting the comments section to just those that subscribe would likely do the trick as well. Would likely screen out 90% of your problematic commentary.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 4:48pm

Disagree. Wouldn't it screen out 90% of opinions? Blatant name calling, sure, I get that. Otherwise, they are opinions. They can make us feel happy, encouraged, angry, or discouraged. I'd rather take the risk of the feeling the last 2 in that I may learn or see something differently than yesterday.

Kimi Riegel
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 10:25am

I wish this sentiment would become pervasive.

Dale Jones
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 10:25am

Bravo! Do they not understand that they have the option NOT to read Bridge, much as they have the choice of what networks to watch? Keep up the good work. I don’t always agree, but every day you provide me with food for thought. Thanks.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 10:27am

I'm glad you still allow comments. I stopped reading MLive because they stopped allowing comments.

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 7:32am

I don't read sites where you can't comment. I don't comment much but if you can't stand behind what you write and are willing to take feedback then its not worth my time to read your article.

Thanks Bridge for still allowing comments.

Richard Miller
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 10:28am

In regard to police and minority groups concerns I would propose a very basic first step to improving relations. Something I learned in school both as a student and then a teacher. Citizenship is a two way street. The civil liberties that are found in our constitution flow to all who are citizens of this great republic and policing authorities need to be held accountable for actions that violate those liberties. But the price of those liberties comes with a cost. That is civic responsibility and that falls on each and every citizen. All citizens are subject to the laws created by our representative democracy and each one of us should be held accountable for actions that violate those responsibilities.

When one of those actions, or both, are lost......we all lose. It’s time now for everyone involved with these issues to start being good citizens again.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 10:42am

Thank you ❤ I've quit commenting or reading comments due to the nasty comments of some. Attacking each other solves nothing.... Thank you for encouraging people to express themselves, but in a civil fashion... I am so sad to see what we've become as a nation :( It's time to work ❤

Bring it
Wed, 06/24/2020 - 9:42pm

Opposing views are great because most of us live in echo chambers and never really hear opposing views. Keep the comments open to all, except for vulgarity, threats, and derogatory comments concerning race, ethnicity, gender, etc.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 11:33am

I understand your sentiments. I think you should also take into consideration the times in which we find ourselves. The rips in the polis, safety net is being exploited by many in todays society. Key board Warriors could care less about your appeal. They know they can hide behind their veil of secrecy and continue to spew hate, anger, racism … In the public square of opinion there use to be individuals who would remind their friends, neighbors and constituents to be kind, understanding and respectful of everyone's opinions. That time has past. This is a crucial moment in American History. In the next several months we Americans will decide who we are, what we believe in and how we as a just compassionate society will move forward through this tumultuous time. NOW is the time for, "ALL" true patriots to stand up and be counted.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 11:57am

People are angry. When you are angry it is difficult to think straight let alone form thoughtful sentences. The editors are 100% correct, hateful language and bullying loses the reader before the point can register. If you feel need to write an angry comment might I suggest putting it on paper first then see if this truly represents you. Perhaps you can find a better way to express what you think. We are trying to understand one another.

Mike Colucci
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 12:05pm

Have you consisered adding up and down voting on comments?

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 9:45pm

Popularity contest? No, that's silly.

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 9:57pm

That would be a good idea if it applies only to the comments that the editors don't like or deem inappropriate. That way we don't have to self censor. We learn to recognize which comments cross an alleged evil line.

Bill Krasean
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 12:22pm

Simply initiate a policy similar to what we had forever in the newspaper opinion sections: Everyone submitting a comment should be required to include their real name and allow Bridge to confirm privately that they did indeed write the comment and stand behind what they said, and not hide behind a fake identification. The rule was if you didn't have the courage to stand behind what you said you shouldn't be allowed to express your observations.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 8:42pm

I should upload the newspaper articles written about me when I worked for the MDOC. Courage wasn't the problem.

A Yooper
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 12:38pm

Spot on.

Seth Porter
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 12:46pm

Good for you! Prioritizing civility while giving a platform for allowing oppressive and disgusting opinions is definitely what good journalism is all about.

Laurence Rosen
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 1:04pm

Please add me to the long list of readers who applaud your comments calling for, above all, CIVILITY, along with reasonable attention to facts and information rather than rhetoric and personal attacks. I do not know if the New York Times limits comments to subscribers only, but the civil tone of its comments--even from those who strongly disagree with the article or column--is enviable.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 1:29pm

I've find your non partisan take on journalism to be very refreshing. Bridge is my favorite place to find up to date information about Michigan, without the obvious slant of bias.

So bad???
Wed, 06/24/2020 - 9:54pm

The articles are great! Why do the comments have to be so great? We aren't journalists. We're just tired worker bees and yes, sometimes we need to vent. It might be our only time we ever feel like someone might hear us. Some of us are hurting so badly and we feel so lonely. We can't even talk with our own families because it's their way or the highway. Save obnoxious comments!

Sat, 06/27/2020 - 12:13am

The comment section is not just for professional academics, though I wish they would comment more often. Come on smart people! Tell us YOUR thoughts!

I come here to try to have conversations I can't have with friends or family because they don't think straight. Or at least the way I do. But then again......most of them go to Church and when at home talk about useless eaters and breathers. Sound Christian to you?

I used to abhor their comments, and then I realized that their comments were a window into their soul.

Bridge........ALLOW THEM THEIR FREEDUMBS! Let them show the world who they are!

Eventually we will all be better off for having done so.

Jim Crow
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 1:38pm

Dont you know, rich white men decide what Freedom of Speech looks like on the commercial airwaves. They decide, down to the word, it you deserve the right to publicly express your opinion. Get comfortable with the arbitrary rules of classist and racists, they have a class war to win...

Karen Linnell
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 1:49pm

Thank you. Maybe now I'll start reading the comments again

Jake K
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 1:56pm

Thank you , David and Bridge staff for approaching the censorship subject as a means of regaining civility in our approach to others. The anonymity which occurs while one hides behind a keyboard does nothing but breed non tethered hostility. Stop the trolls and we might once again be able to have constructive conversations even if we are forced to "agree to disagree." I wish you all the best in controlling the unsavory comments. If you need help, send some my way. I won't mind hitting the delete key!

Dave Lindhout
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 5:06pm

I consider comments a goldmine of public sentiment. The Internet has provided each and everyone of us a soapbox from which to speak. At the same time I can't imagine the effort you go through to edit what you believe to be inappropriate material.

Your comment policy is particularly inviting. No need to sign up for anything. Identify yourself anyway you wish. Remember me with next comment. Very open, extremely easy, I like it. I don't follow many comments on bridgemi, but the ones I have are far above the norm. MLive recently stopped comments. My advice to you, don't do sports!

My fear is your note will not be heard by those causing the problem.

Sat, 06/27/2020 - 12:57am

I have to admit, when I hear people ranting about civil war, it's disturbing, but it gives me a sense of what people are saying on websites I don't visit. Makes me want to write to my elected officials to be on guard. I don't see how ignorance helps, but I'm not as sensitive as many of the people demanding "civility", whatever that means, like we are in preschool. New York Times envy? LOL

mary therese lemanek
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 5:26pm

thank you...

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 5:27pm

I would hate to see comments disabled. Can they go off the rails? IMO yes, and can be annoying, but leaves me a few choices if that happens. I feel bridge in their writing style has become VERY rare today. In that way the comment section is important good bad or ugly.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 6:20pm

Suggestion maybe make commenters use the first part of their e-mail address, the part before the @? This would keep fake commenters off the section rather than flood it out.? Might make it more polite too?

Chris Scharrer
Tue, 06/23/2020 - 7:38am

Thanks so much for all you do to support fair, honest journalism in Michigan. As thinking adult, I am shocked and alarmed at the way other adults speak to one another on various electronic platforms. (And we wonder why bullying in schools is a “thing.”). Thank you for addressing this and making an effort to maintain some integrity while still encouraging debate and even criticism. Stay the course...

Richard Barron
Tue, 06/23/2020 - 9:09am

Thank you for attempting to preserve traditional & responsible journalism as opposed to offering a free platform for the often impulsive and vituperative responses from generally anonymous individuals with closed minds and open mouths.

Lisa M.
Tue, 06/23/2020 - 10:36am

Agreed. Thank you Bridge!

S B.
Tue, 06/23/2020 - 9:45am

Your right

Fred D Lucero
Tue, 06/23/2020 - 11:13am

I agree with Bridge Mag. About keeping a civil voice when commenting! If there’s anything that we can learn from the Trump climate, it is that we have to be kind to those we disagree with.

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 6:36pm

Oh, come now. Asking red-blooded Americans to think rather than just react? When our self-appointed betters have spent decades trying to keep us scared, because scared people are stupid, and stupid people do what they are told? Unconscionable. You must be one of them there "commonists" somebody told me about.

Paula Trilety
Tue, 06/23/2020 - 6:59pm

Thanks for your comments Dave Zeman regarding the comments you are receiving at Bridge. I think that civility is lacking in today's society in many instances. I believe your message should be received loud and clear. As someone who has previously commented to Bridge about their articles, I would hate to lose the privilege due to others incivility.

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 1:39am

I encourage to establish and set of expectations for writers and articles and post those expectations so readers could have an opportunity to verify how well you how the staff to expectations. I wonder if Bridge has an expectation that reporters question all interviewee to a consistent standard, if Bridge expects some fact or intent checking on what they are being told, or some asking about experiences that the interviewees have built their positions on, or even that articles about political positions/wants have some references of at least links to other resources that may present a counter viewpoint.
I hear have heard over the years that Bridge wants to be considered an unbiased news resource but I have yet to find that as a formal expectation of reporters.
I support Bridge establishing expectation of commenting readers, I wonder why Bridge doesn't establish similar expectations for reporters. In my professional career and associations there were standards for employment, for membership, and these were offered to the public [media] to as a means to hold my employer and the organization I was associated with accountable, I wonder what Bridge thinks of that concept.

Bridge is Just Fine
Wed, 06/24/2020 - 10:10pm

What about starting your own platform and making your own rules? I suspect you are whining because you think Bridge is too progressive.

PS That is a reader's comment (however uncivil and nasty, LOL). It does not reflect the views and opinions of Bridge.

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 9:57pm

I am not about rules, I am talking about expectations that help people focus their efforts. I support the expectation Bridge has established for readers, I think the purpose is to help people focus their thinking/writing. I have seen how that has help employers and associations use that with employee to help everyone being focus on what the organization deems important. I have seen organization use this approach to help members to be consistent with all other members to reinforce the efforts of the association. I was part of an association that was made up of staff from a government regulating agency, employers [regulated by that agency], unions and their members, operating personnel from non union organized employers, and all where able to successfully work together and promote openness/transparency between all the parties to promote the health and safety of workers. They were able to achieve this in part because their was a well established set of expectation they were made aware of before they committed to be members of the organization.
I am a bit surprise of you remark, I would have expected you to question what value such expectations would create, ask how that would differ from rules, how it would benefit the staff members, the board, Bridge management, the readers. I think it could have started a conversation we would have both gained from.
When I posted the comment I expected Bridge to simply correct me and direct me to a place I could find their expectation for staff, reporter/editors, and encourage me to read it and ask any questions I might have. But as of yet all I have found is silence. I think Bridge is missing an opportunity to both help staff and readers become aligned in what to expect from Bridge, and means for ensuring high expectations now and as Bridge evolves.

Sat, 06/27/2020 - 1:03am

This comment should be barred for being longer than the article. LOL Lack of paragraphs also a bit uncivil.

Richard H Price
Wed, 06/24/2020 - 10:23am

Outstanding job keeping Michigan readers informed...keep up the great work...

John Hulett
Wed, 06/24/2020 - 7:40pm

Thank you for taking a stand!

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 2:26pm

I'm 100% on board with your request for civility. These days, I don't comment often in the online world. Doing so is mostly a waste of time in that more often than not, replies consist of nothing more than personal insults. Rather a sad state of affairs. I wish you well in your quest for civilized conversation.