Saturday, November 5, 2016

Why News Sites in Alaska (and Everywhere) Should End Comment Boards

The first time it happens, you take it personally. You ask yourself what you could have said differently or try to engage in a real conversation. Then you quickly realize it's futile and you use all the tricks. Muting, blocking, reporting, unfollowing, whatever. 

I've come to accept trolling and abuse as the cost of doing business as a blogger. Sort of a tax on my sometimes outlandish writings. And while the way people interact with me and with each other is sometimes awful, I don't let bullshit comments stop me from putting my thoughts into the world.

But news sites are a different story. 

The main objective of a newspaper or media outlet is to report news and inform the public. Almost every newspaper and media outlet in Alaska has a website with a comment board. And without exception, they are festering with trolls to the point I personally think these sites should consider removing the boards entirely. Attempts to moderate the comments and keep them "civil" are like trying to stop a tidal wave with a Dixie cup.

No matter how innocuous the subject, you will find people spewing vitriol and hurling invective at the author, those involved in the story, and each other. People call each other slurs and say they deserve to be raped and die of cancer. Things no one would dream of saying out loud, and you wonder if deep down they really even think it. 

It's not a question of "free speech." These boards are not run by the government and their owners have every right to shut them down in the name of decency and the public interest.

If the purpose of the comment boards is exclusively to turn us all on one another to drive web traffic and clicks, then maybe Alaska's media sites have won. If their purpose is to foster even one shred of meaningful dialogue, they've failed miserably.


  1. Agreed! Haters are gonna hate and they should be deprived of their forum.

  2. Didn't the Washington Post and NPR nix comments? It's not just Alaska. But what if there's a pony in the pile. Moderation can strain out the hatred. It takes a strong stomach, but if an outlet cares about information and not just clicks why not follow the example of OHM and use the letter-to-the-editor model? Ooops... Did that sound like meaningful dialog? My bad.

  3. Democracy is messy. That's not a reason to end it.


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