Hammering on comments again

Newspaper sites continue to fail at comments.

The latest poster child of the clueless approach newspapers take to comments is an otherwise very fine newspaper — the Deseret News.

The DN is going to limit people to only two comments per day per story.


They say they will allow only two comments per day per story, and comments will be pre-screened.

Their article announcing the changes telegraphs their cluelessness in the first sentence:

Newspapers have always had an interest in feedback from their readers. The primary source for this feedback, Letters to the Editor, has had a prominent place in newspapers for more than a century.

Comments are not letters to the editor. They are not "feedback."  Such a notion indicates the Deseret News editors still view their roles as "we report, you read."  Feedback is fine, but the idea of a conversation is completely beyond their comprehension.

Typical newspaper think.

Comments are conversation.

Comments are about engagement, both audience to audience, and news staff to audience.

Comments are about community.

Polices that subvert comments include moderation and posting limits.

While I naturally applaud the DN’s new real name policy, the DN editors again show they don’t understand comments by instituting this policy in order to bring more civility to comments.

A real names policy will not bring more civility to comments.  The purpose of a real names policy is more ethical than comment quality.  People using real names can be assholes as much as John Schmoe.

The only sane comment policy begins with the concept of management and leadership.

A newspaper the size of the DN must have a community manager, and reporters and editors must participate in and help manage comments.

Any other approach is doomed to failure.

If you’re a publisher unwilling to invest in comments and community, you should just drop comments completely.

However, if you do that, the next natural question is, why are you even publishing on the Web, then?

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