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A publication of the World Editors Forum

Date

Sat - 01.11.2014


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Are moderation and participation the future of news? A panel discussion moderated by Justin Peters of the Columbia Journalism Review Online at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia debated the right way to get the community to participate in life of the news organization.

Most all news organisations these days say that they take their communities pretty seriously, said Peters in his introduction, but they are still trying to find the right way to participate in and to moderate these communities.

Often the problem seems to be that comments turn into a shouting match, underlined Charlie Beckett, director of POLIS at the London School of Economics.

“It’s something we hear all the time. Journalists write beautiful articles and along comes the public and writes something critical, offensive, and journalists get upset about that”. But this is something that has always happened, Beckett stressed, it used to happen in the real world, but journalists only started to experience it first-hand when it started to happen online..

Author

Federica Cherubini's picture

Federica Cherubini

Date

2012-04-27 13:48

Are comment sections really all they’re made out to be? While most news organizations welcome user feedback in some form or another, the debate is far from settled as to whether comments help or hurt online newspapers. Intended to encourage intelligent online discussion—but often dominated by vicious trolls, or users who post inflammatory statements for no reason other than to provoke others—comment sections clearly have both their pros and cons.

In an article from the Animal New York website, which is currently redesigning its format, Joel Johnson asserts that most comments are not intellectually stimulating or educational, but rather just spam and “drive-by internet hate.”

“Comments are a dinner party,” Johnson writes. “If I’ve invited you to have a seat at my table, at least have the courtesy to not call me an idiot for serving you food slightly different than you preferred…”

Johnson also suggests that the cost of monitoring comments outweighs the editorial benefit that insightful comments might bring.

He writes, “comments are likely a cost-of-doing-business for most content sites, not a revenue generator. This has been somewhat known for years for any high-volume site that is forced to require human content moderation—humans cost money, whether they are hand-moderating content, shepherding conversation, or building automated tools to allow user-moderated content.”

Author

Gianna Walton's picture

Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-11 14:59

"Engaging the community" is a phrase that is increasingly thrown about by editors, particularly social media editors. Nowadays, "engaging the community" refers just as much to dealing with an online assemblage of people as it does to dealing with a physical, geographical community.

This is all well and good; social media referrals and commenting drive traffic to news sites - but what happens when the people you want to engage start disrupting debate instead of contributing to it?

The practice of delivering threatening or aggressive comments on the Internet is often referred to as "trolling", therefore its practioners are logically named "trolls". "Trolls" seem to find news websites particularly fruitful locations to stick their heads out from under their bridge, deliver some abuse and then return to their daily business.

Why is it so easy for said "trolls" to do this? Anonymity is one significant factor. Recently, Laurie Penny, a columnist for The Guardian, The Independent and the New Statesman, decided to address the issue of those people who target female journalists with misogynistic tirades and often use the anonymous commenting systems to do so.

Author

Katherine Travers

Date

2011-11-07 15:52

The Boston Globe's recent decision to hire outside help to moderate its online comments, reported by Media Nation, is the latest event to prompt discussion on the different means news websites have in dealing with an overflow of readers' comments. The newspaper joined NPR and the San Francisco Chronicle as clients of ICUC Moderation Services, a Canadian company specialised in moderating online content.

Niemen Journalism Lab spoke to Keith Bilous, ICUC's president, about the benefits of outsourced comment moderation. According to him, hiring outside help both frees up newsroom resources and provides a possibility for a discussion about the function of readers' comments generally. "The focus is on getting more better-quality comments and conversation on sites instead of 'let's just get as much comments as we can.'"

Bilous noted that when it comes to improving online discussion, different companies have different objectives. No one wants to see potentially libellous comments on their website, but some questions, such as whether to audit comments before or after publishing them, have to be answered separately in each case.

Author

Teemu Henriksson's picture

Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-22 12:16

Be careful what you write when supposedly commenting under the guise of anonymity. The news site may not be so anonymous after all, especially if there's a defamation suit involved.

This is what is currently happening in Indiana. Stories ran in The Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis Business Journal last year about the halting of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana expansion at its northeast-side headquarters over questions about missed payments to contractors and unaccounted-for grant money stemming from the time former CEO, Jeffrey Miller, had the job. In response, Miller and his wife, Cynthia, filed a defamation suit against Jennifer Burk, who is the current chief executive of Junior Achievement; Brian Payne, who is president of Central Indiana Community Foundation; and both of their organizations. But they then amended the complaint to include as many as nine other people and three entities as defendants because of anonymous comments made on three news media websites last year. The media websites belong to The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Business Journal, and WRTV (Channel 6).

Author

Ashley Stepanek

Date

2011-03-02 18:44

Freedom of speech is a basic principle on which democracy depends. But the right to say anything you want can teeter-totter between a sharp nod of agreement from some--with the underlying hope that people will use their best judgment in paying it heed or not--and a slow, quizzical shake of the head from others that suggests "I'd like to say yes, but ... some things are better left unsaid."

NPR is of both minds, and currently struggling to strike the balance. To serve a broader interpretation of the U.S.'s first amendment, the radio news organisation is allowing more liberal use of language and tone on its Facebook page. American Journalism Review writes that in this forum, conversations tend to be more casual and offhand than on the official website. Rather than adhering to polite dialogue in the comment thread, "our Facebook users are snarky and swear like sailors" says Andy Carvin, NPR's senior strategist.

Author

Ashley Stepanek

Date

2011-02-23 15:54

NPR says it is pleased with the results of its decision to outsource the battle against offensive online comments, AJR reported.

Comments are a very important tool in online news websites as they let readers participate in debates and enrich discussions, contributing also to reporting. But how can news organisations stem the tide of offensive comments and spamming?

NPR announced in October that it would outsource is Web site regulation duties to ICUC Moderation Services, a social media monitoring company specialised in online content moderation.

Author

Federica Cherubini's picture

Federica Cherubini

Date

2010-12-17 11:53

Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team have a lot to celebrate this year. According to Mashable, Facebook is the single most popular website in the United States accounting for one out of four page-views and 10 percent of all internet visits.

So what exactly does this mean for the social network site that revolutionized the entire concept of 'social media' when it exploded on the scene in 2004? Facebook hit its 500 million member mark this year, and is now thought to boast over 600 million members, having seen "an enormous 55 percent year-over-year increase, which brings it to have 151.13 monthly unique visits in the United States alone." And Facebook has recently launched a push to persuade its users to make the site their homepage, seen as a direct attempt to take on Google.

Author

Grace Donoso

Date

2010-11-23 16:27

After introducing a comment feature on their website three years ago, the website of the Janesville Gazette, Gazettextra, is now retracting reader comment capability from certain kinds of its stories.

The elimination of the discussion section comes after comment threads have been bombarded with "troublesome" commentary that often strays from topic and leads into "insults, innuendo and other kinds of offensive remark," editor Scott Angus said in a blog posting.

The comments, which were originally designed to facilitate discussion between readers, "allowed people from all different backgrounds, beliefs and interests" to engage in conversations regarding the stories, but Angus said "it hasn't worked out as well as we had hoped."

Although comments proved to be a popular feature, with readers leaving about 10,000 comments a month, Angus says the site needs to make changes in order to "bring more civility to online discussions," as people don't seem to stop with the inappropriate remarks.

Author

Grace Donoso

Date

2010-11-17 19:38

With the plethora of online comments, newspapers are having difficultly editing responses from their users. Reuters recently noted this problem, claiming the importance of encouraging comments that advance the content of the story while simultaneously blocking tasteless responses. "I've become increasingly concerned about the quality of discourse in comments on news stories on Reuters.com and on other major news sites," reports Dean Wright. "On some stories, the 'conversation' has been little more than partisans slinging invective at each other under the cloak of anonymity," Wright refers to how Richard Baum, Reuters Global Editor for Consumer Media, is handling the comment dilemma.

Baum affirms that newspapers need to have control over what users publish onto professional news sites. He explains that comments which contain racist language, incitement to violence, uncivil behavior towards other users are plainly unacceptable. Other types of comments where there is excessive use of capital letters, spelling and grammar errors, or irrelevant responses to the story reflect poorly on the newspaper industry. "When we block comments of this nature, it's because of issues of repetition, taste or legal risk, not political bias," says Baum.

Author

Stefanie Chernow

Date

2010-09-29 12:35

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