The relentless grind had a psychological and emotional toll. While moderation was generally a quiet place, letting comments sit in the queue too long would make readers furious. Constantly making judgement calls on other people’s utterances, sometimes by the dozens in stressful circumstances with uncertain boundaries, is draining. My stomach always twisted in a knot of anticipation when I knew a subject I’d just posted might be even slightly controversial. (And I’ve learned that almost anything can become controversial.)
It was never enjoyable to approve comments that I might disagree with, or that attacked me or a photographer directly. But if the comments weren’t abusive or racist, I would generally let them through. My estimate is that between 90 to 95 percent of the comments made it. That remaining 5 to 10 percent, though—I’m glad that I made the effort to never let them show up on any of my stories, even for a second.
One emotional photo story that I put together early in my career was about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I’d reached out to several families, asking them for permission to publish some of their personal photos—images of their young children in hospital rooms and in recovery. While putting that story together, I made a mental promise to those families and to every other subject that I might include in a story that I would do my best to keep the comments civil, at least where I had control. I just couldn’t allow some careless troll to leave an unmoderated insult about one of those kids for their parents to see there.