Forum Communications last week announced it would begin separating readers’ online comments from the news stories with which they’re associated. It was the latest in efforts some media organizations are taking to rein in the hatred, racism, and stupidity that have become the hallmark of Web site “comments,” especially for newspapers.
This weekend, the Buffalo News announced it would now require its online commenters to identify themselves by name, and their identity will be checked.
News Editor Margaret Sullivan writes as if it’s as difficult as trying to stop an oil well explosion:
Media organizations all over the country, particularly newspapers with active Web sites, are struggling with this subject. There’s no easy answer. The tension is between wanting to take advantage of the freewheeling expression of the Internet and wanting to keep standards of reasonable tolerance and decency on a public site.
There’s no easy answer? Of course there’s an easy answer. Newspaper editors have been able to tell the difference between something valuable and something hateful, racist, and stupid for generations. It seems an odd assertion that they so consistently profess to struggle with the question.
So what’s the real reason? They don’t want to spend the time doing it.
There’s something else, though, that newspaper people don’t want to do. They don’t want to talk to you. One of the reasons “self policing” has failed is because there’s no sense that there’s any conversation taking place.
We know by simple observing of human nature that if someone actually thinks a real person is going to talk to them right back, they’ll be less, shall we say, indelicate in what they say. And a
It’s not hard. There’s nothing to wrestle with or struggle over.
Reporters by nature object to taking more time to actually talk to readers and listeners, contending they don’t have it to give. But if there’s something Twitter has taught us by following reporters, it’s that that’s an entirely false argument.
(h/t: Quick13 via Twitter)