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
    GEMont (profile), 20 Dec 2015 @ 10:18am

    The Astro-Turf Section

    Since most web "newspapers" are merely outlets for the brick and mortar Truth Free Press, I cannot see what a comment section would be good for in the first place.

    Its not like pointing out their bullshit is going to stop them from writing what they are told to write by corporate funders and political VIPs. When disseminating bullshit is your job, public scrutiny and analysis of that bullshit is a threat.

    I'm more surprised that any of these "sites" ever even considered having public comments sections in the first place. That they're getting rid of them seems inevitable.

    If they want to appear "webby", then they should just hire a couple of professional bull-shitters to write a ton of daily BS under numerous "handles" and pretend its public discourse. That way the comments section would always support the crap that was published.

    Real posts that were acceptably supportive could also be posted while the rest would simply go into the trash bin, as inappropriate. Since any complaints by "inappropriate" posters would never see the light of day, the reading public would never know the difference.

    ---

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