Morons in newspaper comments

Star Tribune‘s comment sections are straight-up YouTube-esque. I can’t believe half the shit people get away with. If their comment was sent as a letter to the editor, it wouldn’t be published. Why should it be allowed on the site? Similar sentiments have been expressed at Gawker and Radar.

You can report comments for being vulgar or racist, but the real problem is that most of the comments are completely stupid and there is no filtering for that. People just don’t know how to act.

Olga Franco

This is a mild example, but this person frequently shits out useless and terrible comments. This was on an article about observers of a van on fire, full of disabled people in wheelchairs unable to get out, who rescue them before the fire department came. Other comments lament how the blacks/Mexicans/liberals are ruining America, calling for the newspaper to include the race of persons involved in stories featuring crime, taunting the staff writers about budget cuts and layoffs, and so forth.

An editor at the newspaper, Nancy Barnes, finally addressed the commenting issue last month:

We don’t edit the comments — doing so would create a legal liability for the paper. However, we do have software that filters bad language, and we have a part-time employee whose job entails deleting comments that don’t pass community standards. We also put in place a process where readers can flag inappropriate comments and vote for comments they find useful and relevant. And users who want to post a comment need to register.

If their comment rating system had any purpose, such as featuring the most popular comment or allowing users to ignore comments underneath a certain threshold like Slashdot’s system, there wouldn’t be as much of an issue. However, you seem to be able to rate other comments for no discernable reason and their “featured comment” is entirely random.

The newspaper has chosen to ignore the problem, hoping it will simply go away if they disable commenting on certain stories. However, this leads to people bringing bigotry into the comments for completely unrelated pieces.

Oh, and a post-script to “dgbrong”: if the Star-Tribune was so PC, why do you think they are still using “illegal” as a noun?

  1. Question’s avatar

    If you think the Strib is bad, you should read the comments at the PP. Hard to believe, but they are worse.

    Reply

  2. Badger’s avatar

    I used to get riled up at the Star Tribune comments (and am still annoyed by them), but after reading this article in the NYT, it occurred to me that maybe most of the morons posting comments are just trolls who are unloved, insecure, and have too much time on their hands:

    http://themedium.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/31/trolling-for-ethics-mattathias-schwartzs-awesome-piece-on-internet-poltergeists/

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  3. Rich G.’s avatar

    Without question, the comments are a horrible example of what people are capable of when they have too much time and not enough intelligence on their hands. Though there are certainly exceptions, even on Katherine Kersten’s column.

    On the other hand, it’s rather entertaining to post something resembling a cogent argument there and wait to see what it turns into a few posts down — sort of like the internet version of telephone, just with less giggling.

    Reply

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