The Toronto Star Loves Commentary So Much, It Will No Longer Let You Comment

from the a-muzzled-readership-is-the-new-black dept

Add the Toronto Star to the growing list of websites which claim to love conversation with their readers so much, they will no longer be letting readers comment. As we've seen with countless news outlets over the last year, it's not just good enough to close your comment section, for some reason you must insult your readers' collective intelligence. This can easily be accomplished by pretending you're not closing down comments because you're too lazy and cheap to maintain a local community and moderators, but because you're looking out for the best interests of all mankind.

For example, Motherboard closed its comments section because it just really, really "valued discussion." The Verge informed its readers this year it was muzzling an entire readership because it was interested in "building relationships." Reuters, Recode, Popular Science all similarly insisted they were pressing the site visitor mute button because they simply adore the readership relationship and all it entails.

Not to be outdone by this parade of platitudes, Toronto Star Editor Michael Cooke this week also informed his site's readers the Star was eliminating the ability to comment on stories starting on Wednesday, December 16. Why? Because the news outlet simply adores its readership's passion and insight:
"We’ll also be working to foster more insightful commentary from our readers and engage with you in a more meaningful way. We have passionate, opinionated readers who are eager to get involved in conversations about politics, education, municipal issues, sports and more. You’re talking about the news on thestar.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, LinkedIn and more — and we want to be able to capture all of these conversations."
How exactly will this be accomplished moving forward? Like all the other comment-killing websites, the Star will lazily shove its readers toward social media, while highlighting only Star approved user thoughts and feedback received privately via e-mail:
"Our objective is to highlight the most thoughtful, insightful and provocative comments from readers and to inspire discussion across other platforms and on thestar.com. We’re looking forward to hearing from you — weigh in today at comments@thestar.ca."
Like most news outlets, The Star dreams of returning to the bygone days of letters to the editor, when you could just pretend idiots and trolls didn't exist, highlighting only staff-approved thought and opinions. Who needs the bi-directional nature of the Internet? Who wants readers pointing out how your authors have screwed up a story? And frankly, who wants to get your loafers dirty interacting with the unwashed masses?

When you close your comment section you're telling your users you don't think their voices matter. When you then insist you closed comments for the sake of "improved conversation," you're telling those same muted customers you think they're all idiots.

As we note every time another site takes the ax to their on-site community, the idea of comment section as some kind of mythical, untameable monster is a myth. Data shows all it takes to dramatically raise the discourse bar in the comments section is actually showing up and giving half a damn. It's neither expensive nor time-consuming to do, but it's a whole lot easier to shut down all public, transparent user feedback, and then pretend it's for the good of the known universe.
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Filed Under: comments, feedback, newspapers, readership
Companies: toronto star


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  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 Dec 2015 @ 9:14pm

    "We value our readers' comments... we just don't want to see them."

    If they don't want to deal with comments, that's one thing, but lying and claiming that they're removing comments in order to foster discussion is a slap in the face to all their readers. That's a pretty blatant admission that they think that their visitors are too stupid to see past the empty words to the real message behind it, and I would hope that they lose a significant portion of their readers for that reason alone.

    Most of the posters here on Techdirt are "amen" types, agreeing down the line with almost everything and at most raising minor and esoteric points.

    Just because everyone doesn't agree with you, or share your positions on things, doesn't mean that they're mindlessly agreeing with what's being presented. If one person says something like 'Fire is hot', and the majority of people agree, is that because they're 'Amen types', or because they agree that yes, fire is indeed hot?

    (Semi-related, but your comment reminded me of one article where pretty much every single person disagreed with the article.)

    People tend to congregate(pun unintended) with those that share similar views on things, so it's hardly surprising that the majority of those that are regulars at TD also tend to agree with the articles posted, and even then the particulars can vary between posters.

    You've got copyright abolitionists, reformers, a handful of maximalists, people who think that there's nothing wrong with 'insulting' trademarks and people who see no problem in them, people who pirate, people who don't, people who agree with the practice, people who don't... the idea that just because most of the regular hold similar views on some topics there's no real discussion is absurd, and all it takes is reading a couple of articles to see this.

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