Discussion Guidelines for Inside

Here's a quick rundown of the discussion rules for the blog.

First things first: If you can't be polite, don't say it. Of course, we don't want to stifle discussion of controversial issues. Some topics require blunt talk, and we're not always going to agree with each other. Nonetheless, please try to disagree without being disagreeable. Focus your remarks on positions, not personalities. No personal attacks, name calling, slander, comments about someone's mother, comparisons to notorious dictators - you get the idea. And under no circumstances should you post anything that could be taken as threatening, harassing, bullying, sexist or racist.

Don't use obscenities — even if the word in question is often used in conversation. We're not going to list the words we object to; you know what they are. Remember, this is a public forum and we want everyone to feel comfortable participating.

Anything you post should be your own work. You're welcome to link to relevant content and to quote from other people's work with attribution. But that doesn't mean you can copy and paste wholesale.

Please stay on topic. Think of it this way — if you hosted a book club meeting at your house, you wouldn't want someone to show up and insist on discussing reality TV shows.

Rambling is the kiss of death. Keep your comments to 400 words or less. Generally, anything beyond a few paragraphs had better be very, very interesting to the larger community. We reserve the right to edit for brevity as well as clarity.

Please respect people's privacy. We love to learn about new and interesting individuals, but most people will not be happy to have their phone numbers or e-mail addresses published. If you need to share someone's contact information, please submit it through our contact form.

No spamming the comment threads - this isn't a place to hawk your wares.

We appreciate the news tips members of the public send us. However, NPR reserves the right not to publicize rumors, allegations, conspiracy theories and other information which we know to be false or unsubstantiated.

Be yourself - and not someone else. Don't post anything on the site posing as someone else. Imposters should look elsewhere for kicks.

Please don't use public forums for private communication. Most of our forums have a link (it's on the right side) for sending private messages to a blogger or host. Similarly, if you have comments about NPR coverage or policies generally, please don't use the blog discussion threads to air them. For issues regarding NPR editorial content or policies, write to the office of the ombudsman. To contact an NPR program or any of our business and technical departments, use the NPR contact form.

If you want to know even more information on what is and isn't allowed on, please see our very official Terms of Use page.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR bloggin' - good show! However I fear the discussion guidelines, though reasonable, would eliminate about 90% of the people who would otherwise comment if they followed them...even though they won't... :)

Sent by Joseph Hunkins | 2:02 PM | 7-7-2008

Actually, these are basically the same guidelines we've used for all of our blogs over the last 18 months, and it's worked out well for them. There's nothing too radical laid out here - just a focus on keeping things friendly....

Sent by andy carvin, npr | 2:05 PM | 7-7-2008

Why is it that "NPR reserves the right to read on the air and/or publish on its Web site or in any medium now known or unknown the e-mails and letters that we receive" but when we get a response from NPR (other than the "thanks for your comment and *please* give" non-response), the email comes with a tag saying the email is "confidential" and we can't use the response in any way?

Not only that, but there's apparently no way to send email or even physical postal mail to NPR without entering into that "shrink wrap" agreement!

Why do we give up copyright and NPR doesn't?

Just askin'.

Sent by Steve Lamont | 2:49 PM | 7-7-2008

Hi Steve,

Are you getting those responses when you use a specific contact form or something? I don't think I've seen that message before, but I'm not a regular user of our contact system. Please feel free to pass along more details and I'll ask around.

Sent by andy carvin, npr | 2:52 PM | 7-7-2008


I received the "confidential" tag in an email from someone on the NPR staff. Since I'm apparently forbidden to disclose the contents of the email or, by extension, the sender, I'm unable to divulge anything further.

Sent by Steve Lamont | 4:16 PM | 7-7-2008

Not sure what to tell you, then. Most NPR staff I know don't have such language in their email signatures, so it sounds like an issue with that particular individual rather than an issue with the Web site.

Sent by andy carvin, npr | 6:05 PM | 7-7-2008


The NPR staffer in question (whose blog one can find in the sidebar of this page) is not the real issue.

The real issue is why, in order to communicate with NPR in any way, one must relinquish copyright. Your "Contact Us" page says:

"NPR reserves the right to read on the air and/or publish on its Web site or in any medium now known or unknown the e-mails and letters that we receive. We may edit them for clarity or brevity and identify authors by name and location. By sending us a letter or e-mail, you agree to these terms. For additional information, please consult our Terms of Use."

That seems to me to be more than slightly confiscatory.

That's the point.

Sent by Steve Lamont | 7:14 PM | 7-7-2008

I'm not seeing how that's the same as "relinquish[ing] copyright," which would suggest that you are giving up ownership of your own words. We just reserve the editorial right as to how it will be published or broadcast by us, if it's published at all. The language exists because we're both a website and a broadcaster, which means public comments may be utilized in either media format, and we may edit for clarity and time. That's pretty standard for all media entities when you see terms of use for letters to the editor and the like.

If you're concerned about the policy, you're more than welcome to reach out to the ombudsman and offer your perspective.

Sent by andy carvin, npr | 7:29 PM | 7-7-2008

Okay, one last blast and then I'll let this drop.

Please refer to the US Government's definition of copyright, here:

NPR asks writers to relinquish their rights to reproduction of their work and derivatives thereof. The "agreement" that NPR imposes is pretty clear. In order to communicate with NPR any fashion, whether via email, blog posting, or plain old snail mail, one must agree to this rather onerous "shrink wrap" license, which would apparently be in force even if the writer was ignorant of its existence.

While, obviously, a blog poster or commenter would expect that their words be made public, that is not necessarily the case of a sender of an email or a physical letter.

That's what I'm talking about.

There have been instances where I've personally demurred from emailing NPR on a subject because of this licensing -- I did not want my words taken and broadcast without my approval (or even knowledge).

Regarding the ombudsman, I've indeed brought this to the attention one of the previous occupants of that chair without any response.

Sent by Steve Lamont | 7:45 PM | 7-7-2008