Lessons in community from community editors: #1 Shane Richmond

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.

10 thoughts on “Lessons in community from community editors: #1 Shane Richmond

  1. Mitchell Jones

    Although I've not been amongst a site as big as the Telegraph, I have adminned a large UK-based online wrestling community (the very definition of "sad", in some circles) and what Shane wrote was absolutely spot on. People don't like to be told what to say or to be punished for breaking rules built upon little more than being for sake's sake. It is hard, though, to moderate certain people and viewpoints without raising the ire of someone, somewhere. In contrast to the third point raised, as valid as it may be in his case, I've seen instances of a vast majority of people calling for one person to be excluded from the community because his viewpoint was completely opposite to theirs and seen as being as detrimental to their world of agreement and socially accepted norms. The problem is that his opinions weren't in any way "wrong", or even forceful or hateful. They were presented respectfully and clearly, with a lot of thought. So now you're in a position to say "now do I listen to the majority and remove unpopular opinion, or defend the freedom of speech they themselves are on the side of – as long as it's for their benefit – and allow him to stay, risking the potential backlash of the community?" I think it's here where a lesson in community would really start to benefit from discussion of. Just my one pence, though.

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