Breaking down the ‘community standards’ rule for the BDN Maine blog network

Breaking down the ‘community standards’ rule for the BDN Maine blog network

My favorite part of blogging for the BDN Maine blog network is that my unique brand of humor is a welcome part of the vibrant community of bloggers. Sure, not everyone cares to read parenting humor, but that is OK because we have nearly 200 other unique blogs penned by Maine voices from around the state.

At the BDN Maine blog network we want to be a place where people of all backgrounds can feel welcome and safe to share their stories and ideas. This is why the BDN Maine blog network has a community standard so that the most people who want to read and participate in our community can feel welcome.

The rule, in short:

“You will not publish content that is pornographic, sexually explicit, obscene or violent. The BDN may remove content from your blog if we feel it is in violation of our community standards.”

This week we’ll unpack what that means, and give some examples on how to navigate with and around them in a tasteful and classy way. Quality writing can convey a colorful imagination without relying on crass words and images that alienate readers.

‘Pornographic and sexually explicit’

In 1964, Potter Stewart, an Associate Justice on the US Supreme Court, famously said, “I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.” There has since been a lot said about sex and pornography in the media.

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A good way to measure if you think material may be sexually explicit or pornographic is to ask yourself, would this appear on a magazine cover at the grocery store? You should keep in mind that your work is exposed to thousands of people from a variety of backgrounds and ages. It is wise to avoid imagery that would make your grandmother uncomfortable, or that which would be unsuitable to present to a classroom of fifth graders.

‘Obscene’

Some words — particularly those of the four letter variety — turn readers off. BDN Maine readers come from a diverse backgrounds. You want to avoid words that can easily offend readers.

That is not to say that you must avoid all swear words. Here is a great example by  BDN blogger Alex Steed who talked specifically about swearing at his house and he did it in an appropriate and clever way. We ask that when you use them, you do so thoughtfully and purposefully, and if they are necessary to tell the story, please warn your reader at the top of the post.

Bloggers need to be particularly careful to avoid sensitive words in headlines, featured images and excerpts. These are elements of your post that will be shared on others’ blog posts and news stories across the BDN Maine network.

‘Violent’

Often we have stories to tell that give voice to the voiceless, and you don’t have to shy away from telling a story because it is uncomfortable to hear. But sometimes those stories can be intense, and they need to be tapered with at least some caution. Let’s talk about two different ways in which a reader might interpret a blog post as violent.

Gory or gruesome imagery

In Maine we hear and see a lot of stories about wildlife. Let’s say that a blogger posts a story about driving down I-95 and hits and kills a deer; a common story in Maine. If the blog post has descriptions of an animal in pain, which could make some readers uncomfortable, then it would be prudent to put a disclaimer at the top of the post to warn readers of sensitive material. If you aren’t sure if your post poses a risk of offending readers then you can always bring your concerns and questions to the BDN Facebook group or email our editor.

Making threatening statements

I think it goes without saying that we cannot make threatening statements to an individual or group, no matter how fired up we feel about a story. Bloggers are valued members of the BDN community and therefore expected to follow the same guidelines we ask of commenters, which is no racial slurs, name-calling or personal attacks.

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Our community standard rule is not intended to smother creativity, but rather to create a safe and welcoming space for writers of all backgrounds to enjoy. We created these rules because we want to make this network accessible to all of Maine. When you write with us, your words on Maine’s media’s biggest website and following these rules help you reach as many people as possible. Community standards are way to keep both you and our network safe. Words are power. Words have serious consequences. Please use your words wisely.

Don’t forget to catch us on Facebook and Twitter. And as always, if you have a fabulous idea for a blog then we want to hear about it.

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Scary Mommy, Disney’s Babble, and Momtastic. Sarah runs a popular Facebook page, @Housewifeplus where readers laugh and share stories from the parenting trenches. She is a co-author in several books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine and National Public Radio.