Have Comment Sections on News Media Websites Failed?
– NY Times
“Many newspapers and online media companies have begun disabling comment sections because of widespread abuse and obscenity. Of course, that vitriol is not meted out equally: The Guardian analyzed its comments and found the 10 most abused writers of the past decade were female and/or black. (The Times moderates comments in an effort to keep them on-topic and not abusive.)
Have comment sections — once thought to be a democratizing force in the media — failed?
From the ‘Comments’ Section:
“Comment sections have become less necessary and relevant as publishers move audience engagement to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram — all of which allow for easier moderation and hold greater opportunity to attract new audiences.”
“Trolls, jerks, petulant little snotnoses, call them what you will, they haven’t a chance of ever running the show or even directing the conversation. Most people know when they are being led and most know the acceptable limits of each publication. I’d rather figure out myself who is kidding who than have a third party decide to shut down the squawk box.”
“It’s through the comment section that we the readers can talk about how bias your articles are and state the real facts that most journalists leave out of their garbage opinion piece. You’re just shooting yourself in the foot by leaving the comment section out because most people will just go to another dime a dozen site that left the comment section in.”
…..Read the continuing and thoughtful discussion, with a comments section @ NY Times
The Left’s War on Comment Sections
“The internet was born open but is becoming closed everywhere. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the rush to shutter readers’ comments sections at major news organisations. Cheered on by intolerant, snobbish cultural elites, news organisations from The Verge to The Daily Beast have, in recent months, informed their readers to take their opinions elsewhere.
Dozens of progressive blogs and news outlets are following suit, citing “abuse” and “harassment” as the primary reasons they no longer want to hear the opinions of their readers. But that’s not what is really going on.
There was a time when comments sections were seen as the next step in a golden age of democratised communication, particularly by the political Left. “For the first time ever, we are thinking aloud, unfiltered by mass media gatekeepers,” wrote a former Hillary Clinton advisor in 2008. “Never before has the global discourse been so accessible, recursive, and durable.”
In 2009, the former online editor for the Washington Post wrote that despite their problems, readers’ comments allowed readers to “complain about what they see as unfairness or inaccuracy” and remind editors that they “do not always agree with journalists about what is important.”
The late Georgina Henry, former editor of the Guardian’s online commentary pages, wrote in 2010 that “journalism without feedback, engagement, dispute and opinion from below the line no longer feels complete to me.” Indeed, the Guardian was once so enamoured of its comments section that it ran a weekly feature, Below the Line, in which “delightful, prolific, or controversial members of the Guardian comment community” were invited to profile themselves.”
…Continue reading @ Breitbart
Comments are making the internet worse. So we got rid of them
“In February 2009, large law firms were in crisis. The stock market was in free fall, Lehman Brothers had recently collapsed and rumors of lawyer layoffs and firm implosions were rampant.
At Above the Law, the legal news website I founded in 2006, my colleague Elie Mystal and I were covering the developments closely. In the reader comments, we noticed persistent predictions bubbling up of layoffs at leading law firm Latham & Watkins. These comments led us to investigate further. Before Latham eventually announced its massive, record-setting layoffs, we broke the story — and we owed the scoop, one of our biggest ever, to our comments section.
Reader comments in the early days of Above the Law were a treasure trove of information, insight and humor, advancing our mission of bringing greater transparency to an often opaque profession. Comments were wildly popular; some readers came specifically to read them, and some commenters became Internet celebrities in their own right. “Loyola 2L,” a law student who helped raise public awareness about the risks and costs of going to law school in 2007, was named Lawyer of the Year by the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.
Over the years, however, our comments changed. They had always been edgy, but the ratio of offensive to substantive shifted in favor of the offensive. Inside information about law firms and schools gave way to inside jokes among the “commentariat,” relevant knowledge got supplanted by non sequiturs, and basic civility (with a touch of political incorrectness) succumbed to abuse and insult. A female Supreme Court justice was called a “bull-dyke.” An Asian American woman’s column about civility in the legal profession provoked “me love you long time” in response. My colleague Staci Zaretsky, who writes extensively about gender inequality in the legal profession, was told: “Staci, you have plenty of assets, like that fat milky white ass.”
So we decided to get rid of the comments section.
* * *
In part, our decision was based on science. Researchers have found that when readers are exposed to uncivil, negative comments at the end of articles, they trust the content of the pieces less. (Scientists dubbed this the “nasty effect.”) A study by the Atlantic found that negative comments accompanying a news article caused readers to hold the article in lower esteem. In an increasingly competitive media environment, websites can ill afford to have their content and brands tarnished in this way.”
…Continue reading @ WashingtonPost
What happened after 7 news sites got rid of reader comments
“Recode, Reuters, Popular Science, The Week, Mic, The Verge, and USA Today’s FTW have all shut off reader comments in the past year. Here’s how they’re all using social media to encourage reader discussion.
For a short period at the end of 2014, it appeared that publishers had reached a breaking point in their ongoing struggle with reader comments. Within a few weeks of each other, Recode, Mic, The Week, and Reuters all announced that they were closing down their comment sections. They joined the ranks of other outlets, including The Chicago Sun-Times and Popular Science, that abandoned the practice in favor of letting users discuss stories on social channels instead.
Many news organizations have had comments sections for as long as they’ve been online. For just as long, many have agonized over the value of the conversations that rage in the space below a story. There’s plenty of debate over the issue, as newsrooms struggle with moderation, the value of anonymity among commenters, and, in some cases, the legal issues that arise from what’s said in the comments.
I spoke to seven news organizations — Recode, The Verge, Reuters, Mic, Popular Science, The Week, and USA Today’s FTW — about their decision to suspend comments, the results of that change, and how they manage reader engagement now.
Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief, and Helen Havlak, engagement editor:
PATEL: Comments and community are foundational for the company, and they’re foundational to The Verge. So they’re really important to us. We didn’t get rid of them, and that makes us a little different from everybody else you might be talking to. We want to have a big community, a vibrant community, and find ways to grow and nurture that community over time. That will ultimately lead to our success, particularly in a world where, I think, everyone is super worried about off-platform publishing. We’re trying to reset the expectations of our community and rethink how we maintain what’s strong about one set of people that are reading one kind of content as our site grows and as our ambitions grow for the site.”
….Continue reading @ Niemanlab.org
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