In Keeping And Improving News Comments, The Intercept Shows Websites What Giving A Damn Looks Like | Spanlish


Post Top Ad


Post Top Ad

Sunday, January 14, 2018

In Keeping And Improving News Comments, The Intercept Shows Websites What Giving A Damn Looks Like

For the last few years, the trend du jour in online media has been to demonize, vilify, then shutter the traditional news comment section. Usually these closures come with all manner of disingenuous nonsense about how websites are banning comments for the sake of "building relationships" or because the website in question just "really loves conversation." Usually, on-site users are then shoved toward social media silos at Twitter and Facebook we're told are "just as good" as an active, on-site community (read: doing this is cheaper and makes it somebody else's problem).

Traditionally, readers of these websites are told that news comments simply had to die because it's impossible to cultivate healthy discourse in the post-truth, mega-troll era. But as Techdirt and countless other websites have made clear for more than a decade, that's simply not true. And while being lazy, cheap and actively hostile to on-site community is any website's prerogative, this ignores the fact that online news comments are an excellent avenue for transparency and a tool to hold websites, and authors, accountable.

With so many websites muzzling community speech because they just so adore conversation, it's good to point out when websites swim upstream against this trend. For example the Intercept last month announced that the news outlet would be partnering with the The Coral Project at Mozilla to make their news comments system better via a myriad of changes to their commenting platform. The Coral Project interviewed some 300 individuals from 150 newsrooms in 30 countries as part of an effort to improve online discourse.

Informed by this research, The Intercept's changes include the ability to mute annoying users, the ability to track comment edits, a new offensive comment reporting feature, the "featuring" of exceptional comments by website staff, and the expanded ability of staff to interact with users that pose particularly important questions. Again, none of this is particularly revolutionary. Most of it involves treating readers like human beings. But in this day and age -- doing so is apparently now a revolutionary act.

As the Intercept's Glenn Greenwald and Rubina Madan Fillion note, lost in the vilification of comments sections as little more than troll gardens is the fact that on-site comments are a great way to hold journalists accountable:

"Journalists often tout their responsibility to hold the powerful accountable. Comments are a way to hold journalists themselves accountable. Unlike posts on social media, comments occupy the same space as the stories and travel with them as they’re shared across platforms. Comments also make it possible for people to share their reactions without having to connect them to a social media account. That’s why we continue to be strong proponents of comments and encourage our colleagues at The Intercept to read (and respond to) them."

Again, for better or worse news in the modern era is a conversation. Muting your on-site audience may feel good to editors on tight budgets, tired of trolls, and wistful for the bygone days of carefully-chosen letters to the editor, but it's doing your community (and the news industry at large) a disservice. As such, the Intercept's moves are a welcome change of pace for an industry that has spent the last few years insisting that muzzling your readership somehow represents a breathless dedication to quality online discourse.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

No comments:

Post a Comment