Is digital journalism a conversation?

This communicator questions the decision to let Web site readers comment on articles.

This communicator questions the decision to let Web site readers comment on articles

One of my intentions for 2008 is to stop reading the comments after stories in the online version of the Globe & Mail, our national newspaper. They showcase uninspired and uninspiring nonsense posted by people who seem, with a few exceptions, to be ill-informed, ethnocentric, regionally oriented and partisan conspiracy theorists hiding behind anonymity. The outpouring of ignorance and intolerance is especially disturbing because these creatures are my fellow citizens. The news is bad enough; witnessing people at their least charitable makes it even worse.

In online conversations with people in other communities and other countries, and in visits to other online publications, I’ve learned that Globe commenters are no worse than the characters who comment on other news Web sites. I’ve publicly wondered (and nobody has provided an answer) what newspapers think they gain by allowing comments (especially anonymous comments) on the stories they publish. Are advertisers really interested in attracting the eyeballs of these poor addled creatures? I’m all for democracy and freedom of speech, but why create a forum that permits and encourages anonymity and the promulgation of misinformation?

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