Online Users React: Closing News Site Comment Sections
Many readers oppose the act, says it stifles conversation
By: Amanda Scott, Jan 17, 2019
Online comment sections that reside below articles have always been a place for readers to share their opinions, ideas and thoughts on the subject matters above. They were a staple on news sites; a rule if you will. But beginning in the early 2010s, news outlets big and small began shutting down their comment sections for various reasons.
For many news organizations, the argument was they are shutting down comments because they value effective and useful conversation, which is being drowned out by the vitriol.
But readers haven’t just disappeared into the silence. As news sites have announced their decision, readers have been commenting with how they feel about being silenced or sent elsewhere.
Commonly, readers describe this move as an effort in censorship, a stifling of readers’ thoughts and values different than those thought to be held by a news organization.
“[Online news sites] have discovered that people don’t always agree with them – and now they want to push that disagreement into the wilderness of the internet,” writes Breitbart’s Allum Bokhari in his piece about the “war on comment sections.”
Many news sites tell their readers to join them on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, but that doesn’t pacify those who want to participate.
When Reuters shared its plan to remove its comment sections, a commenter by the username operaghost wrote, “Part of the logic for this decision buy [sic] Reuters is to enable the largest conversation possible. While a noble goal, in fact this decision shrinks the conversation. Many of us do not use Social Media for any number of reasons, thus closing comments effectively shuts us out.”
Still, other readers argue the removal of comment sections is, so news organizations can’t be corrected in the public eye.
In his TechDirt blog post about major news sites “killing news comments,” Karl Bode wrote that comments offer “a legitimate and transparent avenue for readers to publicly correct your errors right below the original article, which is something many of these sites likely grew tired of.” He goes on, “Sure, poorly managed comments can devolve into a cesspool of banality, but good commenters almost always offer insights the writer or website may have missed, could have been wrong on, or never even thought of. In short, we want you to comment – we just want you to comment privately so our errors aren't quite so painfully highlighted. For the sake of conversation, of course.”
The most communicated reason readers seem to disagree with a news organization’s decision to remove its comment sections for the sake of conversation, is that the organization is eliminating the primary form of communication with their audience.
The Federalist’s Daniel Lee wrote, “But as other news sites hit the mute button on their readers, they would do well to remember that they are in the business, or should be, of encouraging public participation in the conversation about the life of the nation. As readership plunges, wouldn’t this be in their interest? Besides, a conversation should have at least two sides. Anything less is just a lecture.”