Staff responses belong in comment threads

By Steve Outing

Even though most news websites now allow user comments, it still bugs me to see so little editorial staff participation in comment threads. Having editors and reporters take part and respond to reader comments is a powerful way to keep the discussion more focused and civil. Of course, it’s no guarantee of preventing things from getting out of control, but it helps, a lot.

I just spotted an excellent example (below) of a newspaper staff member diving into an active comment thread. Kudos to Erika Stutzman, editorial page editor of the Boulder Daily Camera, for responding to a user comment that was critical of the paper for publishing a story about its downtown building going up for sale. (The Daily Camera building is prime real estate on the west end of the fabled Pearl Street Mall.)

Yeah, it takes staff journalists extra time to participate. But the benefits of being more “social” online are significant. As modern media consumers now expect their interactions with media companies to be more interactive, diving in and talking directly with readers is necessary for a news organization to remain relevant.

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!

6 Responses to "Staff responses belong in comment threads"

  1. Tim Windsor
    Tim Windsor 8 years ago .Reply

    It was good (and, to the point of your post, rare) to a point, but then Erika the Editor couldn’t resist getting in a jab at the end.

    Though I will give her points for transparency. That’s the kind of jape that usually gets said after the phone is cradled or the email sent.

    Jumping to the bait is never a good idea, even if the original poster was a jerk himself. Answer the question, then move on. Raising the temperature – becoming a sarcastic scold, as one later poster on that story notes – does little to add clarity to the story, which the first half of Editor Erika’s comment does.

  2. Steve Outing
    Steve Outing 8 years ago .Reply

    Tim: Yeah, it’s an art to do this right. But I applaud editors and reporters getting in there and countering bad comment info and dumb statements. I think when the staff journalists “fight back” it can go a long way to making the crazies back off and the overall tone become more civil. But to your point, the staff can’t become crazies themselves.

  3. […] saying this because Steve Outing has a point, when he mentions that staff at news media belong in comment threads. If a user has a problem with something, the journalist has written, that user can bring the matter […]

  4. Angela Connor
    Angela Connor 8 years ago .Reply

    This is common practice for us at WRAL.com, Steve. I am the Managing Editor of User-generated content and we make a point to respond to user inquiries. My team of moderators flag comments that ask questions, demand answers or otherwise need our attention and we respond accordingly.

  5. Steve Outing
    Steve Outing 8 years ago .Reply

    Bravo, Angela!

  6. […] This is a generational thing, few argue that. But if a newspaper has young, interested staff, why aren’t they encouraged to engage readers more. […]

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