By Steve Outing
There’s been plenty of fretting in journalism circles this week about comment threads on news stories. My position: Don’t publish without them, but figure out ways to keep the conversation civil and ban the trolls.
The website of my local newspaper, the Boulder Daily Camera, has pretty active comment threads, and, predictably, the more bizarre the story, the longer the list of commenters. A story today generated a ton of comments: about a woman athlete cycling with her young son in a child seat who had another cyclist come up to her and grab one of her breasts. She chased the guy down while calling 911 on her cell phone, and police caught the weirdo. Yeah, you know that one is going to generate a lot of discussion.
Skimming through the dozens of comments, I was intrigued to see that the victim joined in the discussion, thanking other commenters for their support. (Many called her brave; a few said she was foolish to put her son at risk by giving chase.) Her participation in the after-publication public commenting added nicely to the story. Sure, some of the other comments were dumb, as always. But this was an example of user comments adding value to the coverage.