User comments: good, bad and ugly

By Steve Outing

Like most newspaper websites these days, the Boulder Daily Camera‘s allows users to comment on stories. Staff monitors the comments and responds to user reports of abusive comments by removing offensive posts. It’s all good … well, some good, some not so.

When you read bad comments, remember
the good

The Camera is my main local news source, and I find myself drawn to read beyond the reporter’s story often when an active discussion thread builds. I’m sure that the Camera’s user comments are just like everywhere else — in other words, there’s a lot of awful stuff to wade through. Offensive comments, crude humor, outright stupidity, trolls looking to pick a fight, insensitivity to other people’s suffering, etc.

I don’t mean to paint too bleak a picture, since there’s often intelligent commentary in these comment threads, too. (But I think the stupid and outrageous comments tend to stick in your memory more.)

A comment thread in a story this weekend really stuck out as representing why allowing user comments on news stories is a good thing despite all the bad. A lengthy thread built up around the story of a cyclist getting killed on Saturday when he was hit by a dump truck at a busy and dangerous intersection on the north edge of town.

Most commenters on this particular story were respectful of the people involved in a local tragedy, but one comment stood out as representing why user comments are a positive thing overall. You never know what may turn up; in this case it was from a person with some involvement in the tragedy who the Camera’s reporter did not reach.

“First of all, I want to send out my deepest condolences to the family of the cyclist that was killed from this horroble accident. May he rest in peace!

“The driver of the dump truck is my brother. I know first hand, how much this accident has affected my brother. He is very emotional and cries so much for the loss of this man who died. It is a tragic, tragic accident. I ask that you please keep my brother in your prayers too. He is so devastated by this accident.

“Again, I send out my deepest condolences for this man’s family. I will keep him and his family in my prayers.”

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!