Yes, the comments are popular. We get about 10,000 a month. And yes, they bring traffic to gazettextra.com 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.