Making Editorial Decisions

Janesville paper tells racist commenters to STFU, and by the way, everybody else, too:

Yes, the comments are popular. We get about 10,000 a month. And yes, they bring traffic to and allow people to interact. We tally about 4 million pageviews a month on our site, and many are related to comments.

The nastiness, however, is too much.

We’re not the only newspaper struggling with the issue. Papers around the country are assessing comments and implementing or looking for ways to make conversations on their websites more civil.

Starting today, the Gazette is taking a step that we hope will at least partly address the issue. It won’t solve the problems, but we think it will cut down on the ugliness.

We no longer allow comments on stories that involve crimes, courts, accidents, race or sex.

We and other papers identified those topics as the most troublesome. The comments typically start out OK, but they deteriorate into insults, innuendo or otherwise offensive remarks.

Those of us who monitor conversations on gazettextra have found ourselves consistently removing comments from such discussions and ultimately disabling threads. People simply can’t or won’t behave.

I don’t actually have a problem with this at all. I have a problem with people who accept comments and then bitch about them, like there’s some Law of the Internet that says you have to allow everybody into your house and you’re powerless to stop it. People are dicks everywhere. The Internet allows you to see just how many of them are dicks, and in what specific ways, and if you don’t want to deal with that, don’t. Good on the Gazette for making a decision.

I do wonder if a partial ban would work, given how newspaper commenters here are able to turn a thread about stewed plums into OMG NEGROES, but at least they’re doing what they want to do and admitting they’re doing it because they just want to.

Via Romenesko.


8 thoughts on “Making Editorial Decisions

  1. Now if only would do something similar to this. I’d link to New OrleansTimes-Picayune stories over there, but I think it does a real disservice to the reporters and columnists over there who have a cesspool of a comment thread dragging their hard work down.

  2. Yeah, I don’t have a problem with this either. This paper has realized that letting people just be the biggest asses they can possibly be in an anonymous comment section isn’t really contributing to anything other than adding more anger to the world. Which we don’t need.

  3. I think a better idea is to require logins through something like Facebook, where your real name gets attached to the comments. I’ve seen first hand how all but the most ignorant asshats turn the knob down a few notches when they have to actually stand behind their dumbassery.

  4. When the asshats and wingnuts finish screaming about censorship and freedom of speech, papers like the Gazette will realize they’ve largely accomplished nothing. The asshats and wingnuts will still be loudmouthed racists, misogynists, etc. And by being blocked from comment, only their neighbors will know them for what they are.
    Our local paper requires you submit your full name and town/city where you reside. Otherwise, your comment is tossed in the round file. Subsequently, every reader of the Opinion section gets to know that Joe Blow from Smallville is a steaming jackass. Personally, it helps me weed out the worthless crap because after a while you recognize the name and general demeanor and you simply skip to the next comment.

  5. Also, it’s not as if print newspapers have always run every single letter to the editor. I don’t see how this is different, and given what a cesspit of idiocy and bigotry the average news story’s online comments section is, well, good for them.

  6. My blog got a lot more civil when I started moderating comments, but my personal sanity took a huge boost when I temporarily shut down comments altogether.
    Sad to say, but the “conversation” aspect of the Interwebs is appealing only when you can be reasonably sure you are conversing with people in good faith, i.e., that they really are interested in having a CONVERSATION not pushing emotional buttons, dropping talk radio message bombs (“A ha! I hear the Michelle Obama whitey tape is going to surface on Friday! Suckit, LIEberal looosers!”) and blog thuggery.
    I’m still on hiatus right now but when Dec. 1 rolls around I’m debating what to do about comments. Liberal blogs are a magnet for right wing assholes and frankly I don’t have the time or desire to mess with them. But then, ya know, “they win.” LOL.

  7. Back during the presidential campaign (what was that, like, a thousand years ago?) Thers, Watertiger and I did a mock McCain ad that we put on YouTube. It turned out to be pretty popular, garnering 25,000 or so views. But the comments … holy christ. I’m not naive, but I have never seen such racist vitriol in my life. Everything I do on the Internet I do with my real name – it keeps from acting too much like an asshole – and that includes my YouTube channel. I couldn’t stand having my name attached to that comment thread so I pulled the video the day after the election.

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