I’ve been speaking to news organisations’ community editors on the lessons they’ve learned from their time in the job. In the first of a sure to be irregular series, the Telegraph’s Shane Richmond:
1. The strongest community is one that belongs to its members
This feels almost like stating the obvious now but when I started I thought it was possible to ‘control’ the conversation. I’ve learned that that’s not possible or desirable. We’re here to host the debate but it’s the members of the community who shape it.
2. Guidance is welcome, control is unwelcome
I don’t know to what extent this is true for other communities but Telegraph readers appreciate guidance from our team. Initiatives such as the creative writing and photography competitions which run on My Telegraph came from the readers but they sought our help in administering them. They like us to act as referees and organisers
3. The community has to reflect the values of its members, not its hosts
Free speech is a core value for Telegraph readers. They would rather tolerate the presence of members with unpalatable opinions than see us censor material on grounds of taste. (Legality, of course, is another matter and non-negotiable.) As journalists this approach sometimes goes against our instincts.
Of course, one of the things I like about my job is that it’s a constant learning process. There are many challenges ahead and I expect to learn a lot as I attempt to meet them.