May 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

We Closed the Comments. Here’s Why. | Editor’s Note

The comments section represents an important opportunity for readers to provide feedback and engage in conversation, and we want to facilitate interaction to the best of our ability. In this case, we’ve far exceeded the standard function of comments on a news story.

While we have been monitoring these posts, using our best judgment as to what violates our policy, the point has come for this particular stream to close. The forum is no longer conducive to civil conversation.

As to the requests for specific action by SLJ, it is beyond our ability to confirm the veracity of comments, including the identity of the individual in question. Even if this effort were within our purview, we simply cannot confirm with absolute certainty that this poster is the same person. While folks are postulating on Twitter that our “web guy” could sleuth this out with ease—and believe me, we’ve asked him and much more—we can’t be sure.

En route from Denver and ALA Midwinter on Monday, I made the call to cease comments temporarily, as at least one flamer was both violating our comments policy and shifting the conversation, and SLJ editors were in transit or covering the YMA Awards, and not otherwise prepared to handle the situation. Frankly, we were overwhelmed.

Shutting down the boards in such a case is standard journalistic practice. But at the behest of the community, we reopened the section, which had become the locus for important discussion and a safe place to report personal experiences, sometimes anonymously. And it is our instinct as editors to provide this type of forum.

By and large, we’ve seen the online conversation right itself after drifting off course. But at this point, leaving it open feels like a disservice to everyone involved.

I can tell you that an SLJ reporter is following up with another story, and we’ll continue to track the issue of harassment in the industry. As we have done in past coverage, SLJ seeks to provide honest and fair reporting and we will faithfully pursue the journalistic process toward this end, for our readers.

This is unprecedented terrain, and not just for our publication. Needless to say, the nature of the comments—and on a month-old post—presented a complex situation.

With assistance from Andrew Seaman, Ethics Committee chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists, and Josh Moore, Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Legal Fellow for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the editors of SLJ are confident in our decision.

While comments are closed, we’re still here to answer questions. If you have tips or comments, you can reach out to us directly at Comments will remain open on other stories and posts.


Kathy Ishizuka About Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka ( on Twitter) is the Executive Editor of  School Library Journal.



  1. Elizabeth Shaw says:

    I appreciate both that the space was left open as long as it was and that you have taken this measure to preserve the comments that were left as well as prevent further degradation of the conversation. Thank you for consulting with ethics experts and being transparent about your decision.

  2. Anonymous #1 says:

    I am sorry, but there is something rotten in the state of SLJ about the explanation of why it could not investigate the IP origin of the accuser’s posted and heartfelt recant, something it was in a position to do. A person’s reputation is everything in this world. One might ask Richard Jewell or the Duke lacrosse team what it’s like in life to be accused unjustly, or maybe Paul Nungesser. SLJ says it won’t investigate the recanting of an accusation of two different men in the Comments because there’s no way to tell that it is for sure the same person doing the recant. Maybe true, but we do a lot of things in this world without 100% certainty, and for many campuses the standard of proof in campus accusations of sexual harassment is the 50.1% likely, preponderance of the evidence standard. SLJ could at least be transparent about what a tech investigation shows, even if there is not 100% certainty, and even if such an investigation is extraordinary. This was an extraordinary discussion. Did the IP addresses match, at least? That’s important information.

    I too am grateful that the Comments stayed open as long as they did, but had less of an issue with how it digressed at times. That’s to be expected when there are 540+ comments; many people have individual axes to grind and causes to promote. For instance, extremists show up at every nearly every kind of rally, but that doesn’t make the rally extreme. The SLJ forum was the forum of record on this issue, and some careful moderation of obviously abusive comments (like that Salem meme that someone posted a few times on Feb 14-15) would have more than done the trick of keeping things sufficiently on track. Please consider that for the future.

  3. Children’s author says:

    This is what happens when people are allowed to post anonymously. Enough said.

  4. I won’t pretend I’m not disappointed. Finally, people had somewhere they could share their experiences – and that they weren’t alone; they were believed and supported. And it resulted in real change, with two agents and one publisher dropping two authors.

    But the troll comments were left up too long, which encouraged others to join in and gaslight the brave people sharing their experiences. People defended the alleged, rather than supporting the allegers.

    And now where do people have to turn to confess with the safety of anonymity? (People who’ve shared on Twitter under their real names have been gaslighted and trolled.)

    If anyone wants to open a space for people to come forward, I’ll volunteer to moderate.

  5. Anonymous it is says:


  6. I am sure that Jay Asher’s lawyers and the lawyers of any other men who found their reputations destroyed, careers ruined and livelihood’s taken away based on anonymous internet comments on a blog post will help you out.

    • Yeah, Woody Allen and Casey Affleck seem to be suffering horribly from their accusations. Not to mention the predator-in-chief. Oh, wait…..

  7. From an SCBWI member. I wish you would have left the comments open. There is a great benefit to hashing these things out and it brings great relief to women to be allowed to lift their voices. Just because we write for children doesn’t mean we are immune to the ugly side of life.

  8. BridgetMasterson says:

    Several male writers have been very harmed by the load of anonymous accusations. But I’m glad you bring up celebrities. The women who accused everyone from Bill Clinton to the Hollywood moguls did it in public. Many have pointed this out. So why are 98% or more of the allegations on this forum anonymous? They’re afraid of Sherman Alexie? Like he is going to destroy them or something? This whole thing makes me sick and ashamed. I see the “be respectful” policy on the sexual accusation forum isn’t taken seriously. People are even yelling shut up at anyone who disagrees with the anonymous accusations. Is this respectful? Where was a moderator?

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