1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Reader comments, part infinity

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WolvEagle, Dec 25, 2009.

  1. WolvEagle

    WolvEagle Active Member

    Yes, I know there are other threads on this, but I just had to vent.

    I wear lots of hats at my paper, as many of us do. One of my duties is being the Web editor while the regular Web guy (also a beat reporter) is on vacation.

    I get home the other night and the phone is ringing. It's our managing editor, and he can't get on our admin site. Turns out the publisher got a call at home, who then called the managing editor at home, who then called me at home.

    The first comment on an obit for a prominent car dealer who died of colon cancer was that the reader wished that the dealer's entire family would die of colon cancer because the dealer was a jerk (or so said the reader).

    Since I live a lot closer to the office than the managing editor, I drive back into the office, shut down that message board, delete the comments and add one of my own, saying why the board was deleted/shut down.

    Then I go into the master list of story comments and find gems like one of our new mayors is the equivalent of a blow-up doll and that city needs to get rid of the "Nig Nogs" so it can be a better place.


    I deleted a shitload of comments. Man, was I pissed.

    Earlier in the day, our managing editor got a call at the office from one of our fire marshals, complaining that someone called him a pedophile (nothing remotely close to that has ever been proven). I zapped that one, too.

    Something has definitely got to change at our shop. It has to.
  2. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Our comments section is top 3 nationally (unscientific poll, of course) for eliciting comments from the lowest forms of humanity.
  3. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Long ago, I was frustrated by letters we used to get.
    An old-timer explained it. The "normal" everyday reader will be a subscriber for years and never, ever write the paper. The readers that write are 5% intelligent, 10% wannabe journalists and 85% fringe existers. Now, those were readers that did need to include their name, address and phone number for verification.
    Now, throw in all the cloaks and disguises a modern board affords these "fringe existers" and you get a pretty good idea our problem.
  4. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    So when the fire marshal decides to sue for libel, is the commenter or the newspaper at fault? It's a rhetorical question and one the publisher needs to hear to decide if reader comments are really worth it.
  5. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    not as rhetorical as you think. there are several pending cases around the country on this which media lawyers are watching closely. the law will soon catch up with the reality. when the first newspaper is hit with a big judgment over its comments, that should finally put an end to the despicable practice.
  6. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    The comments are the opinion of the poster on a public forum thus absolving the host of libel.
    That's why comments shouldn't be edited. Once edited, the host assumes (some) responsibility and/or acknowledgement.
  7. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

    Possible solution:

    Make readers register with a name and phone number. Of course they can still use a username to sign on, but their real name and number would be known to the paper.

    That would take away some of the anonymity, in that they aren't completely unknown.

    It likely won't stop the comments, but it could help the newspaper if they are ever sued for those comments.
  8. Cosmo

    Cosmo Well-Known Member

    This. You either delete them or you leave them. You can't edit them.
  9. lantaur

    lantaur Well-Known Member

    I've had a lot of discussion on this. So many pros and cons. One way to help limit things is to have a double opt-in: Make people use a real e-mail address, then when they register an e-mail is sent to that address and a link has to be clicked to activate an account. You also need the way to block someone from a certain e-mail address from posting.

    Now, with google, yahoo, etc., it is possible to just keep coming up with new e-mails, so this is definitely not a perfect solution, but it certainly helps. Some of the "trolls" will just give up after a while, but unfortunately not all of them.
  10. Colton

    Colton Active Member

    At my shop, all comments are approved or not — by our publisher — before they are posted. No one else even has access.
  11. Fredrick

    Fredrick Well-Known Member

    Anonymous reader comments do not work. It's human nature. Anonymity breeds bathroom wall commentary. Newspapers websites are the bathroom walls of society all trying to make a dollar on clicks. It's disgraceful.
    Some car dealer dies of cancer and a reader wishes cancer on the whole family.
    This is no surprise. I see stuff like that daily on our website. I truly wish somebody would sue. Publishers deserve to lose their fortunes over these libelous comments.
  12. WolvEagle

    WolvEagle Active Member

    I've said things like this numerous times to our managing editor. I don't want to see it happen, but if things don't change, it will.

    As was mentioned above, forcing commenters to register is a step in the right direction.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page