Saturday, July 28, 2012

Should news sites ban comments?

Over the past year or so,  kept noticing an interesting phenomenon happening on Fox News - they would suspend comments on certain articles. Not all articles, at first, but ones involving Obama, race or religion, especially Islam. This seemed damning to me - Fox was afraid of the crazies who frequent their site and frequently say terrible, terrible things. So they cut these folks out as a PR move.

It's certainly a good move for them - if your readers are ignorant and racist, that obviously hurts your rep. But for me it's a terrible precedent for a news site to remove readers from the equation. If you're afraid of your readers, what does that say about you?

I brought this up to a journalist I know, and they couldn't have disagreed with me more. "All news sites should disable comments. Nothing ever good comes out of them," they said. The news outlet this person worked out gets tons of crazy comments, and this is common of any outlet whether biased or unbiased. What's more, you need to police these comment in case there are threats or libelous information that needs to be deleted or reported to the police or FBI. So the cons far outweigh the pros.

It made me think back to my days at the Jewish paper. Did we receive pertinent, well-written and insightful letters to the editor? Yes. But we also received ignorant, racist and hatchet pieces, both locally and from national organizations. And this was before social media, when spreading a newspaper's email address and a form letter takes only a few seconds.

So maybe the days of greenlighting news comments are over. Sorry readers, but you blew it.

No comments: