So, Times Union, how’s that comment thing working out for you?
When the paper introduced commenting on news stories late 2013, I wondered if it would elevate the conversation above the untreated waste often found in the blog comments.
I wasn’t alone. When the comment system was launched, Paul Block, the TU’s online executive producer, said, “Let’s hope for some positive discourse on our stories in the days to come.”
That may have been asking for too much.
For example, let’s look at a recent story about a young man subdued by taser wielding cops. Here’s a sampling of the positive discourse:
-Commenters describe the young man as stupid, a twit, and a freak.
-One comment alleges that the young man has a “serious drug problem” and has been arrested before on “numerous” charges. He also claims that the tazee soiled his pants.
-Readers assert that the young man’s father is stupid, acted to “get him out of trouble,” and that he “needs mental help.”
-There are two uses of the word scumbag — and one of the plural, scumbags.
And that was only in a handful of comments.
Look, you can judge for yourself whether reader comments add anything to online content. Some papers are very strict about what gets posted and others either don’t care or simply don’t have enough warm bodies to keep after this stuff.
It used to be if people wanted to write a comment on a story they had to mail a letter to the paper. And maybe we were all better off.