Washington Post Ombud: Anonymous Comments Have Their Place

from the including-on-the-wapo-site dept

With some newspaper folks claiming that anonymous comments are evil and somehow bad for America, it's nice to see someone from the business step up and defend the value of anonymous commenters. The Washington Post's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander recently wrote a good defense of anonymous commenters. The first half details all the bad that comes along with anonymous commenters -- the vile and nasty comments -- but then points out that an outright ban is the wrong response:
For every noxious comment, many more are astute and stimulating. Anonymity provides necessary protection for serious commenters whose jobs or personal circumstances preclude identifying themselves. And even belligerent anonymous comments often reflect genuine passion that should be heard.
He also points out that allowing anonymous commenters has helped to build up a much larger community at the WaPo site, where those users tend to be more loyal and spend more time, even if it's not known who they are specifically. But I think the point highlighted above is key. We all can remember the awful anonymous comments, because those stick out in our memory. But that creates this anecdotal belief that anonymous comments are awful. Yet, as I look through the anonymous comments that we get at Techdirt every day, the vast majority of them are quality comments. Yes, there are some terrible ones, which may be more memorable, but we have anonymous commenters who provide tremendous value -- and it would be a shame to cut them off, just because of a few troublemakers.

Filed Under: anonymous, comments
Companies: washington post


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  1. identicon
    L. Spears, 2 Nov 2011 @ 8:46pm

    Obama's unemployed... he may be next.

    Dear Mr. President,

    You could EASILY help decrease unemployment rates, improve the economy, and reduce the budget at the same time; if you chose to. You may wonder how. Then again you may not really care. However, I am going to voice a HUGE but simple idea.

    A key group in the unemployed/under employed in America is the young people with professional degrees (i.e. teachers). Also, a huge expense in the educational budget is teacher salaries. Today many baby boomers in the field of education qualify for retirement. A 30+ year veteran teacher earns many times what a younger teacher does. In fact, some of those post retirement age teachers earn as much a two and a half time what teachers with five years experience do. However, arrogant, self centered, burnt out, baby boomer educators have held on to those positions long after they had planned to. Reason: unions are guaranteeing them huge bonuses for staying on as union dues are based off their pay. We do not have a shortage of high quality teachers in America. What we have is a shortage of high quality teachers EMPLOYED.

    The "old guard" teachers know how to teach and they know the material as well. They just don't really want to be teaching day in and day out any longer. The poor performance in public education should be your fist clue; a wakeup call that they are "over it." Younger teachers have a better grasp of current teaching strategies and they have a strong desire to teach. Not something you truly find in a majority of the older teachers. This is not the 1970s any longer. Let those older teachers retire and enjoy their remaining years; they have EARNED it. Large portions of the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd are frustrated because they have no jobs. NO JOBS! Despite doing everything right. They did well in school. They worked hard to get into a quality college. They worked to get good grades. They took on LARGE debt to pay for school. However, once they graduated they found NO JOB!! No job is available because the older teachers refuse to retire after they are eligible. This is a breach of the social contract that exists between baby boomers and everyone else; get an education and a job will be available when you graduate. Outstanding student loans are the highest in US history; surpassing credit card debt.

    Many other careers are under similar situations; fire fighters and law enforcement to name a few. Keeping these retirement age employees on another year of two may have seemed like a viable program to someone at sometime, but it does not work in practice. Now, I understand that unions are a huge supporter of Democrats; yours as well. But whose side are you, congress, and the senate on? The American citizens or the union bosses...

    Older employees are much less likely to buy a new home, car, couch, dining room table, television, appliances, computers, new fashions, and many other items than young people entering the work force. Young people are just starting out. Younger employees WILL buy those items. Many of the younger people that have recently graduated are now living back at home with their mom and dad. Those same young people are waiting for their post school lives to start. Instead they sit in limbo; waiting. Remember, it was the young people that made the difference in your election, not the union bosses.

    Do you remember when you told "Joe the Plummer" you were just trying to "Spread the Wealth"?? You should, you got beat up enough over that remark. People voted you into office because you said that. You have had nearly three years to deliver on your promises and you have failed most of the Americans that voted you into office. I'm here to tell you it is now time to put up or shut up. So which is it??

    I urge you to support the American people by encouraging baby boomers to retire, unions to stop paying those big perks to keep high salary people beyond their retirement age, and ask state legislatures to support this as well. America and the rest of the world will be much better for your efforts in this matter.

    Sincerely,

    An American

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