Northfield News revamps its website again; and again, bad things happen

SouthernMinn.comLast Monday, the Northfield News launched a new website using a new content management system for all its regional newspapers, putting all of them under the domain name southernminn.com. So the Northfield News site is now at southernminn.com/northfield_news (there’s an underscore between the ‘d’ and the ‘n’).

I have no problem with this change on the face of it.

Currently, none of the old articles are available. Presumably—hopefully–they will be restored in some type of online archive. But just like in Feb. 2011, the URL’s for those articles will change and the old ones will evidently not redirect.  Last year, I wrote to Publisher Sam Gett:

At Locally Grown, we have linked to hundreds of your articles over the years and now, none of the those links work any longer. As you know, we drive a lot of traffic to your site. (And likewise, our discussions benefit from your content.) So it seems like you’d want to continue to maintain the old URL’s, if for no other reason than to continue generating pageviews.

I never heard back.  So I again wrote to him early last week, resending that paragraph. He said he’d look into it, but I’ve not heard back.

And this morning, if you go to NorthfieldNews.com, you don’t even get redirected to the new site. Instead, you end up at a GoDaddy.com page that says:

Want to buy this domain? Our Domain Buy Service can help you get it. This page is parked free, courtesy of GoDaddy.com

NorthfieldNews.com
See the above screenshot. This may be a temporary situation, an oversight on someone’s part, but it’s certainly startling.

Lastly, the changeover also removed all previous usernames and comments. People are being asked to re-register.  I’ve never like the paper’s policy of allowing anonymous comments so I don’t consider this a great loss. But it’s indicative that they don’t value their readers’ comments either.

11 comments to  (Including One Discussion Thread)Northfield News revamps its website again; and again, bad things happen

  • 1

    The comment situation is quite disgraceful. Also a shame that — since they were deleting everything anyway — that they didn’t use the opportunity to begin requiring real names for new comments. So far, even the trolls are absent on the new NorthfieldNews.com SouthernMinn.com/northfield_news.

    The SouthernMinn.com business reminds me of how WCCO helpfully changed all their URLs last year to “minnesota.cbslocal.com” — both are odd shows of ownership structure that add zero value to the reader.

  • 2

    ArtOrg links back to the Northfield News when they publish stuff about us. I suppose it is not hundreds of articles such as LoGroNo, but certainly dozens. Hmmm….I hope they are available again.

  • 3

    I gotta say, I am a big fan of allowing anonymous comments. At the very least, consistent pseudonyms. “Real name” policies have gotten about enough people harassed and killed, IMHO, and ought to be given up as an idea with higher costs than benefits.

    Consistent nyms are Good Enough, and past that, well. This country exists because people were able to distribute anonymous pamphlets; had they been identified, they’d have been dead.

  • 4

    Peter:
    I’m not sure the Northfield News anonymous commenters are doing so much to expand democracy. I wouldn’t be so demanding if the conversations were actually constructive. In fact, though, the anonymity has consistently encouraged disrespect and vulgarity.

    It also does not seem fair to compare this type of anonymity to anonymous pamphlets. If you want that style of anonymity online, nothing Locally Grown or Northfield News do will stop you: go start a blog. But when they provide citizens a forum, I think it’s reasonable to require identification — just as you would at a town hall meeting or similar.

  • 5

    Requiring some kind of identification, such as consistent names, I am okay with. Consistent naming does plenty to encourage people to maintain their reputations. Requiring “real names” doesn’t do noticably more for it, and disenfranchises some people pretty firmly. That makes “real names” a very, very, bad policy. And honestly, if it were up to me? I would not require identification at a town hall meeting.

    And yeah, any given online conversation may not seem like it’s all that important, but the general class of “can I comment safely without fearing for my wellbeing or being made uncomfortable” is a pretty big part of what makes for a viable and healthy discussion community.

    I feel strongly on this issue because I have a few trans friends, for whom “you must post under the name on your ID” is effectively equivalent to “you may not post”. More generally, though, “real names” have been used in the past to take forum disputes into real life, while pseudonymous handles are a lot safer.

  • 6
    kiffi summa says:

    As Griff notes in the last paragraph of this post, when the NFNews put up their new site design, all commenters had to re-register…

    I made a big mistake several years ago of writing there, not anonymously , but will no longer do so because of their policy which allows anonymity.

    Anonymity can occasionally allow something to be said which would not be said otherwise, but in almost every instance it is a bad idea.

    For instance, there is a person commenting there now who uses the moniker “enough already”. This person has the very same ongoing issues and criticisms and complaints as a previous anonymous writer ; it’s fairly easy to identify a ‘style’ after a while, especially when the content is so repetitive.

    My concern is this: in an election season it is especially unproductive to have anonymous comments, but even worse would be to have a person commenting anonymously who is running for office, and worse yet have that anonymous person commenting against another candidate, especially one running for the same seat.

    The NFNews owes it to us to go through their files, and make sure that none of their commenters who choose the ‘safety’ of anonymity are candidates for office.
    I sincerely hope they will take the possibility of this occurring very seriously, and immediately correct the problem if it exists.

  • 7
    Griff Wigley says:

    Jon Denison, I’ve removed your comment because it violates my discussion Guidelines in two ways.

    I tried to contact you via the email you submitted with the comment but it bounced.

  • 8
    kiffi summa says:

    I have contacted Ms. Rook at the NFNews about this potential problem.
    She has passed my concern on to Sam Gett and Jerry Smith, while also noting that she is not positive the News has the actual names of the commenters who choose to register with the paper as anonymous, possibly only their e-mail addresses.

    So.. what if, as Griff notes in #7 above, a person submits a non-viable e-mail?

    Anonymous comments are always a problem at some point, whether at the News or any site and should not be allowed without registering with an actual name and functioning e-mail.

  • 9
    kiffi summa says:

    ‘report’ on july 5… have heard nothing further from NFNews…

    Do they know what the real names of anonymous commenters are?
    It would appear from their comment registration page that they ask only for an e-mail address; then do they check that e-mail address to be sure it is viable?

    What if the confirming e-mail ‘bounces’, as Griff noted above?

    How do they insure against people who are running for office commenting anonymously against an opponent? do they care?
    Of course, who would do such an unethical thing as that: commenting anonymously against an opponent for elected office?

  • 10
    kiffi summa says:

    I guess a sort if irony is inherent in small town newspapers… the July 18th edition of the NFNews carries a front page story with the banner headline: “LOCAL CONFIDENCE”…
    then a sub-headline that says: “Northfielders in line with survey that shows Americans favor local government” …

    But … their online poll, which asks local residents about their confidence in local government has been running around 4-1 against favoring local government.

    • 10.1
      Kathie Galotti says:

      If you look now (Thu 7/19, 2 pm) it’s running almost 4:1 unfavorable to favorable impressions of local government.

      The NNews really likes to put an optimistic, complacent spin on things. Either that or their numeracy skills are sorely lacking.

      These are the same folks who told us that Northfield schools scored “well” on new state measures. Well, if scoring well means 39% or 50% or 61% of the available points, then I guess we rocked those state measures.

      All of which is to say, I agree with you, Kiffi!

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