Monday, July 9, 2007

Ben Franklin and The Telegraph's comments section

Few things at the paper have caused more consternation lately than the comment sections of our online articles. For those of you unfamiliar, at the end of most of The Telegraph's online stories you can comment on the story, or pretty much anything else.

It's largely anonymous and quite often devolves into a shouting match of fools. Sometimes the comments turn downright libelous, hateful and racist.

Steve Wilson over at wmcc news called it "the best comedy show in Middle Georgia."

The question at hand is: What responsibility does The Telegraph carry in all of this?

Though we do take inappropriate comments down when they are reported, we hardly have the staff to police hundreds of comments each day - comments that are presumably being written BY ADULTS WHO SHOULD BE ABLE TO MANAGE THE BASIC RESTRAINT AND DECENCY IT TAKES TO FUNCTION IN A HALFWAY POLITE SOCIETY.

On the other hand, it is our site. And I don't want to be judged based on what these morons write. But I also think that anyone who judges me or the rest of our staff based on content obviously produced by anyone with a computer and far too much free time is a moron, too.

There are idiots everywhere. How is anyone shocked by that?

There is something to be said for holding a mirror up to the community and, like it or not, that's what the comments section is. It's not The Telegraph's fault that the reflection is sometimes ugly.

It's like a photographer once said when he came back in with a picture that couldn't run because the subject wasn't wearing a shirt: "I don't dress 'em, I just shoot 'em."

Beyond that, I was in Atlanta this weekend and visited The Atlanta History Center, which is running a Ben Franklin exhibit.

They excerpted Franklin's "An Apology for Printers," which I think is relevant.

"Printers are educated in the Belief, that when Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."


Andrew said...

Well said.

wesley said...

can i still comment while not wearing a shirt, or is the MainStreamMedia gonna outlaw that too?

jk, keep spreading the gospel, trav.

ProSeThoughts said...

Well, well, well...this post is very humorous coming from a reporter who, himself, responded to someone else's article with a comment that was out of place and uncalled for.

So glad I found your blog Mr. Fain. I'll be able to tag you better from my blog. :-)

Nice chatting with you. Don't forget to check out my latest on you. I hear you're under new management.

wesley said...

um, has "prosethoughts" ever been accused of stalking?

i'm just asking.

he he, no need to come after me...

that blog u speak of doesn't happen to link to the anarchist's cookbook or the unabomber's treatise, does it?

Chris said...

Idiots are ok, as long as they are Lucid. :)

Have you considered asking trusted readers to moderate the comments? It would give your readers an ownership stake in your site while still promoting a sense of online community which makes blogs so popular.

Keep up the good work on this blog. Contrary to what the self-important pro-blogosphere chattering class think, you folks in the MSM who can do this full time as your job provide a valuable service.