Telegraph Media Group’s head of technology Shane Richmond weighs in on a debate about the value of comments left by readers on newspaper websites.
Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis recently suggested a turnaround in his view on reader comments: “I defended [newspaper] comments for years. But the problem is that comments are too often the voice of assholes.” He added in a blog post: “[C]omments are an insult because they come only after media think they’re done creating a product, which they then allow the public to react to.”
This prompted a response from Ilana Fox, who ran online communities for the Sun and Mail Online, disagreeing with Jarvis and arguing that the majority of people interacting with newspapers online aren’t “assholes” at all.
Richmond says both are right – his post is worth reading in full – and makes a particular point about the effect of journalists’ involvement in comment threads:
Jeff makes the point that inviting readers in after the fact is disrespectful, which is what leads to the unconstructive nature of much commenting. But I’ve noticed that engagement by journalists breeds a culture of respect. If journalists join the conversation, they are more likely to be respected by readers.
I don’t think the “true collaboration” that Jeff would like to see is a replacement for commenting. Many people are happy to comment and don’t want to do more. True collaboration builds on the work we’ve done so far. And it is a goal that many of us are working towards.
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