LUMBERTON — Effective immediately, The Robesonian newspaper will no longer allow comments that are racial on stories that do not have a racial element that have been posted on the newspaper’s website at robesonian.com.
“This is something we have thought about for a while, but recently it’s become clear that we need to crack down,” said Donnie Douglas, the editor of the newspaper. “Unfortunately, we have a few people who comment regularly who turn everything into a racial issue. That just seems to create a feeding frenzy.”
The newspaper will allow racial comments on story that have a racial element, according to Douglas, but they must be in good taste and pertinent to the story.
“I have spoken with other editors and this problem doesn’t seem to exist elsewhere,” Douglas said. “I can only guess that it is a result of our tri-racial community and our problem with poverty, which seems to create a lot of finger-pointing.”
Douglas said that other steps are possible for people who continue to offend, including banning them from making comments.
“Obviously, that would be a last resort, but if they can’t play by the rules, that could be a course of action,” he said.
The problem has escalated in recent weeks, leading to a number of complaints to the newspaper, in phone calls, emails and through the website itself, which encourages people to report comments that are in poor taste.
“While we were moving in this direction, the complaints sped it up,” Douglas said. “I want to thank those who pushed for change.
“We understand our obligation to report the news, but we are not obligated to provide a forum for bigotry and hatred. We are a member of this community, and allowing this kind of divisiveness does not benefit anyone. It certainly doesn’t elevate the conversation.”