The Trend Of Killing News Comment Sections Because You 'Just Really Value Conversation' Stupidly Continues

from the mute-button dept

Over the last year, there has been a tidal wave of websites that have decided to close their news comment sections because the companies are no longer willing to invest time and effort into cultivating healthy on-site discussion. While that's any site's prerogative, these announcements have all too often been accompanied by amusing, disingenuous claims that the reason these sites are muting their on-site audience is because they're simply looking to build relationships or just really value conversation. Nothing says "we care about your opinions" like a shiny new muzzle, right?

And judging from this NiemanLab conversation with a lot of the sites that have chosen to shutter comments, most of the websites have no intention of looking back. After all, what's the use of a local, loyal, on-site community when you can just offload all conversation (and that traffic) to Facebook and Twitter, right? Dan Colarusso, executive editor of Reuters, for example, doesn't think comments are important because damnit people -- Reuters isn't looking to argue!
"We’re not the kind of news organization that’s about giving our ‘take’ on something. We’re not looking to start an argument; we’re looking to report the news. We felt that, since so much of the conversation around stories had gravitated toward social, that was the better place for that discourse to happen. We did keep comments on our opinion pieces, because we felt that that is where you are trying to start an argument in the best possible way."
Except comments aren't just about having arguments, they're a legitimate and transparent avenue for readers to publicly correct your errors right below the original article, which is something many of these sites likely grew tired of. Sure, poorly managed comments can devolve into a cesspool of banality, but good commenters almost always offer insights the writer or website may have missed, could have been wrong on, or never even thought of. In short, we want you to comment -- we just want you to comment privately so our errors aren't quite so painfully highlighted. For the sake of conversation, of course.

Last week On The Media was the latest to quietly kill comments on the bottom of its newsletter, informing readers that comments just don't provide the "kind of dialogue" they wanted:
"We value our listeners above all and are always keen to know what you're thinking, to hear your questions and concerns, to get feedback on what you like and dislike. So why shut down the comment section? As we hear more from listeners through Facebook and Twitter and directly through our website, we've concluded that the comment section just isn't the best way to have the kind of dialogue we want with our listeners."
By "kind of dialogue" you mean transparent and public? Over at the last bastion of website interaction known as Twitter, Mike amusingly highlighted the disjointed logic of claiming to value dialogue while dramatically reducing the number of avenues for it, and the website's response doesn't really make sense:
Of course "nobody in our writing or editorial staff wants to take the time to cultivate local on-site community" or "we don't like having our mistakes highlighted publicly right below our articles" don't make for very good explanations when it's time to save a little money and axe ye olde comment section. So what we get instead are these vague bloviations about how this is really about an evolution in conversation, and punting the problem to Facebook is really the best thing for everyone. It's really time for some new, flimsy excuses for why websites can't be bothered to value local, on-site dialogue, because "we killed a major, on-site avenue of conversation for the sake of conversation" still doesn't really sound all that convincing.

Filed Under: comments, news, on the media, value conversation


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2015 @ 7:43pm

    Re:

    an extract from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/10/end-online-comments
    Comments sections also give the impression that all thoughts are created equal when, well, they’re not. When Popular Science stopped publishing comments, for example, it was because “everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again...scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to ‘debate’”. When will we see the humanity and dignity of women as a fact, rather than an opinion?
    A philosophical comment on her comment and Popular Science's.

    If "evolution" is not up for grabs and is "demonstratively" true then the logical conclusion is that we cannot/will not ever see humanity and the dignity of women as a "fact". The underlying logical consequence, if you take "evolution" as a fact, is that the lessor members of any species are to be thrown to the wolves, so to speak. So, in the case of primates, et al, the females are the property of the dominant males. Since, according to the general view of evolutionist, human beings are primates then it is only appropriate that the females be accorded the status of property.

    I posit a simple challenge to all evolutionists to demonstratively prove that transition forms exist today. Not just a possibility but demonstratively provable. Because if you can't actually quantitatively prove it, then mayhaps, the entire idea is invalid and the logical consequence of following that idea is also invalid and that other ideas are more valid.

    It is interesting to note the following. For those who actually investigate the originator of Christianity, Jesus Christ and for his first generation disciples, women were regarded highly and to be honoured no less than any man. In point of fact, the strong were to defend, provide for and protect the weaker members whether women, children or other defenceless members.

    I know that there are many who call themselves "Christian" and consider women and children and anyone not like themselves as second class or third class people. These people are not disciples of Jesus Christ. I may hate the actions of people but I don't hate the people because but for the grace of God, there go I. I am no better than anyone else, I just have the opportunity to be a disciple.

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