Surprise: Editors and users disagree

Here’s a quick take from a new online journaism credibility study: Editors are a lot more queasy about real names in Web site comments than users.

When asked “do you think it is a good idea or bad idea that a website does not require names?” 64% of the editors thought it was a bad idea, and 24% a good idea. Meanwhile, 45% of the public thought it was a good idea, and 40% a bad idea, showing more split on this issue than did the editors.

Regarding the likelihood of their posting a comment if they must provide their names, 27% of the public said “very likely,” 20% “somewhat likely,” 20% “somewhat unlikely,” and 27% “very unlikely,” suggesting that the public opinion was split.   

As someone who deals with some of the wild and crazy things commenters will write, I can tell you if I haven’t seen it all, I don’t want to. But I read into this that the public is fairly comfortable in sorting out what they think about comments and that about half wouldn’t join the conversation if they had to sign their name to it.

The Online Journalism Credibility study was conducted by The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute in Missouri’s School of Journalism in cooperation with the Associated Press Managing Editors in August and October 2007.

A number of the results look fascinating. I’ll probably write more on this later.