GMW Policies: Update on Reader Comments, Obituaries and How GMW Operates

GOOD Morning Wilton recently celebrated its eighth anniversary and we’re proud of our growth, progress and evolution. With so many new Wilton residents and readers, we wanted to reflect on and share more about who we are, how we conduct ourselves — especially on controversial topics — and continue lines of open communication with readers. Think of this as a bit like “Behind the Scenes with GMW.”

Commenting Policy Change

From the start, GMW has paid special attention to how we integrate reader comments and participation. Our FAQs and Terms of Use have clearly outlined our commenting policies. We have always moderated reader comments and determined whether to approve comments for publication. We made clear since day one that comments should reflect respect for the community — GMW readers and staff as well as the wider Wilton community. Comments shouldn’t insult, be mean-spirited or attack others, but should extend the conversation and discussion.

Allowing anonymous reader comments encourages less care and respect for others, and so we will no longer do so. We have recently updated our reader commenting policy to require anyone submitting comments to provide a real and verifiable first name, last name and email address.

A recent study conducted by the University of Texas Center for Media Engagement backs up that belief. When news organizations turn off or disable comments, readers disengage and find their experience to be worse. Commenting which required individuals to be identified was determined to be “more civil” and “less toxic,” and reader engagement was higher.

We think requiring commenters to identify themselves will make the GMW community stronger and more authentic, and the experience of reading GMW better.

Obituaries

Covering sad news is an unfortunate part of journalism. Publishing obituaries is a service that can provide solace to community members mourning the loss of a loved one and allow them to celebrate the life and memory of a person who had been a member of the wider Wilton community.

Other publications often charge to run obituaries. To us, death is not a source of revenue and it feels unseemly to profit from someone’s pain. Publishing obituaries without charging a fee is part of our role as a member of this community. Anyone who wishes to submit an obituary may do so via email.

How does GMW operate?

People often assume that GMW has a large staff. In truth, there’s one full-time employee — editor/publisher Heather Borden Herve. There are several freelance reporters, writers and contributors, including Kathy Bonnist, who for the past year and a half has been a prolific contributing writer covering several town boards and commissions, and profiling local business owners, among many other topics.

But for the most part, GMW is a small, locally-owned business, trying as best as possible to cover as much as possible that’s happening in Wilton.

With such a small staff, how can GMW cover everything there is to cover in Wilton?

We can’t, so sometimes we have to make a call about what we can and can’t cover. We try to prioritize news that impacts the largest number of people in town. Most recently we’ve devoted a lot of coverage to COVID-19 and how the town and school officials have responded to the pandemic. We also prioritize news about development, land use, school issues, the town/school budget process, local elections, and Wilton businesses. We strive to feature local amenities and non-profit organizations as best as possible.

We prioritize hyper-local news, not state government or national news, though we have occasionally made exceptions, such as in the case of state zoning reforms or legalized marijuana, where we approached the issue from a local perspective.

We find out about stories through networking, on Facebook, by attending or watching town board and commission meetings online, and through story ideas sent to us, among other ways. We always appreciate receiving reader-contributed stories via the “Submit a Story” link on the top menu.

As more corporate/regional media changes have made other Wilton news outlets turn their attention away from Wilton, we know residents increasingly depend on GMW for their news about Wilton.

We often receive up to 500 emails a day related to GMW — on everything from running the business and advertising to story ideas and requests for new coverage.

Sometimes those “story ideas” are from commercial interests seeking promotion. While we are proud of our record of helping to introduce new businesses in Wilton, we often have to draw the line on “free advertising.”

Of course, with only so many hours in a day, and with the size of our staff, we can’t be everywhere all the time and we have to make choices. We also have to decide how to allocate resources, both in our time (cognizant of the fact that we’re only human, with families we’d like to see and the need to sleep on occasion) and cost (as a small, local business we hope to continue to grow with the support of the community).

How does GMW approach controversial topics?

Covering stories that are controversial can often elicit strong reactions from people with varying opinions and beliefs. Most recently, journalists covering COVID-19 stories have heard strong reactions from readers, and GMW is no different. For that subject and on every other one, we strive to focus on facts and thoroughly sourced, accurate information from established, credible resources, whether it’s directly from town officials or individuals at the center of a story. We follow accepted, standard journalistic practices.

GMW has earned membership in the Society of Professional Journalists, the Local Independent Online News Publishers, and the CT Press Club/National Federation of Press Women, based on our professional body of work. We rely on over 30 years of experience in media to evaluate and analyze situations to determine how to and whether to cover a story.

We don’t make decisions in a vacuum. We’ll often consult colleagues in those associations and other authorities for advice about how to approach divisive, partisan issues, and how to best serve Wilton with solid, community-service reporting.

We try to be as transparent as possible about our methodology. We’ll share details about when and how we’ve reached out to someone for comment or information.

We also update stories with corrections or clarifications if necessary, or if any changes are made to an article once it’s published.

To whom do we reach out with questions?

Readers are always welcome to email questions to editor@goodmorningwilton.com or to contact GMW through the Contact Us link at the top of every page.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for the “behind the scenes” look at GMW – very much appreciated! Also, keep up the good work – GMW is a terrific source for local news and happenings!

Comments are closed.