Do Newspapers Need Comments?

from the probably-not dept

A few weeks back, we wrote about the question of whether or not newspapers should be getting into the community business by noting that you don’t build communities, you enable them. But, the question still remains how you enable those communities. Gawker had an interesting post recently along those lines arguing that newspapers shouldn’t allow comments on articles. The argument is, basically, that a lot of the comments are really dumb, and don’t add very much. That may be true, but in many cases, that’s because the newspaper doesn’t give anyone incentive to add smart comments. There’s no indication that anyone at most newspapers read the comments. The authors of the articles rarely, if ever, respond to people in the comments. There’s little to no engagement or discussion. So, instead, the comments just become a way for readers to vent. Just tossing up comments and thinking you’ve created a community is a mistake — but that doesn’t mean newspapers shouldn’t enable comments. It just means they should do so in a more intelligent manner.

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Comments on “Do Newspapers Need Comments?”

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SV says:

Re: Excelent exampel

Yes a very good example of crap commenting. Not adding any thing in the way of information or well thought out opinion.

I don’t normally read comets because of this. I don’t usual leave comments saying “Your comment is crap” but this time it seemed on topic.

I think any unmoderated forum tends to drown in peoples vapid self indulgence.

Vewww thank god that’s off my chest.

Anonymous Coward says:

I moved and have kept reading the online editions of the news papers of my country of birth. A while back some began allowing commenting from readers.
Now, I have a facebook account, I’m on LinkedIn so it isn’t like I am opposed to the community idea. But the quality of reader submitted comments on news paper content is so poor, offensive and biased that it reduced the value I used to have from reading homeland news while drinking my morning coffee.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if Mr. Drogan (in comment #8) is being ironic, as the sort of comment he posted is a good argument for not having comments.

Or he could just be a semi-literate twerp.

However, my knee-jerk reaction to the title of this article was “no” and some of the more well-spoken of you have convinced me that I may be wrong. Thank you.

ultra says:

Actually some journalists do comment on their articles. For example, Tarik El-Bashir, Washington Post’s beat writer for the Capitals, writes articles and maintains a Capitals blog on the site, and he’s very good about reading and responding to the comments on both. His articles and blog posts are the only reason my browser ever makes its way to that paper’s website.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well thought out comments add to an article

I think (good) comments are essential;they often inform me of problems with the original article and give a balanced view.

Obviously, it depends on the calibre of the writers who respond. I like,, for the mostly good comments.

Slashdot has a grading system that works. (I also think it has a huge army of informed readers who add great info many topics, Science, Law, Med, IT etc).

Oh Yes I like the comments here also.
But a piece of advice. If in doubt – don’t post.

ps – Mike , Have you thought of using the slashdot grading model. It seems to make the most informative comments float to the top.

Anonymous Coward says:

That’s why I like community comment ranking. It helps filter out the dross for the real gems. Granted that ranking systems can be gamed it still has the advantage of floating most of the cream to the top. It is especially important for the authors of the articles to respond to articulate commentary. It is that kind of correspondence that I really enjoy. You see that here on Techdirt quite frequently which is one reason many consider it to be one of the better blogs.

cmb says:

they are almost entirely worthless

It’s depressing to see the level of absurd stupidity the comments on newspaper sites display. Is the general population *really* that stupid? There are some that don’t resemble a “5th grade flame war” as a previous commenter so aptly put it, or apparently come from someone with a 5th grade level of intellect and knowledge. But it’s 1 in 100 maybe.

Most of the websites I frequent are tech-related, mostly focused towards IT professionals, and the comments generally add value to the article and contain intelligent discussion. I’m driven away from even glancing at the comments on newspaper sites because the mass stupidity on display just pisses me off.

FarSide says:

Upside of Comments.

Those “idiot”, “foul”, “ignorant”, and “laughable” comments reflect, exactly, a nation of drop outs who have been told what to think, and barely how to write. People whose opinions are a mile wide and and inch deep.

Sadly, if you listen to teacher unions, and education think-tanks, the always unbiased left wing of the country, they sadly decry the country’s state of education. In there eyes, another 10 trillion thrown their way and everyone can finally be an uneducated and ignorant drop out.

Well folks, they represent a majority of Americans. I am grateful they are involved to any degree. Barely half of America votes… and those are the ones who probably do not even comment. Sorry state of affairs, isn’t it?

Paul says:

Matt Bennett (1) and Anonymous Coward (16) have it right – You need an incentive to leave better comments, and a way to skip the inevitable dross.

Newsvine’s ranking system is simple to understand and use, while maintaining comment order and threads.

BTW – Did the NY Times have reader comments on most stories for a few weeks and then withdraw it? I think the Chicago Tribune launched and withdrew comments, citing poor quality and offensive content. SF Chronicle’s comments are particularly idiotic (if you average more than 50 per story, most recent should be at top).

st says:

the only thing

The only thing more worthless than blogs is blog comments.

Slate’s “The Fray” forums might be what you are describing as the best way. Slate takes the time to highlight the best of the forum comments, so even though I never read the forums I get the benefit of them and they must be more high quality because they might get highlighted by the editors.

There may be some necessary foundation for a “The Fray” style forum, such as audience size, and quality of the audience, and new media cluefulness of the editors.

Brandon says:

Indy Star

The Indianapolis Star allows comments and like many people have said, it is almost always just people complaining about something. If the article is about the suburbs, people complain about the suburbs. If it’s about crime, they complain about the crime. If it’s about the new Colts stadium, they complain about how much it cost. Even when it’s a tragic story, such as last week when a lightning storm started 5 house fires in one suburb, some people lost everything but most of the comments on the article were about how stupid these people were to live in the suburbs or that it was Gods revenge for urban sprawl.

On the flip side, the Indiana Business Journal allows comments on their online articles and there are actual real discussions and opinions there. And by opinions I mean, telling people what you think without putting down the people that think different. Maybe it’s just the different type of people that read those articles as compared to the main Indianapolis newspaper.

gossard (user link) says:


On the flip side, the Indiana Business Journal allows comments on their online articles and there are actual real discussions and opinions there. And by opinions I mean, telling people what you think without putting down the people that think different. Maybe it’s just the different type of people that read those articles as compared to the main Indianapolis newspaper.

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