Thursday December 20, 2007

Comment moderation at Herald.com?

Storm clouds gather around the reader comment situation at Herald.com. It seems that the future holds a registration system and/or comment moderation for the Herald, and with the ratio of useless/offensive comments that currently plague the site, I can’t say that I see this as a particularly bad thing. But I would also encourage the Herald to borrow even more liberally from how comments work on blogs. For example, the few comment excerpts at the bottom of articles never correspond to the articles at the top of the comments page. And why have a separate comments page, anyway? But more importantly, there is a glaring fallacy here:

The number of visitors to MiamiHerald.com in November was up 66 percent from the year before, according to Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal, and registration might slow or even temporarily reverse such strong growth.

With all due respect, Mr. Schumacher-Matos, the Herald’s Ombudsman, is getting himself very confused: what’s putting the breaks on Herald.com readership is the registration system required for reading the site, which is not only invasive and tedious, but broken — I’ve personally repeatedly re-registered for the site, only to have it forget me after a couple of months. I’m back to using bugmenot to access it, which of course does nobody any good (like the slipshod “data” they collect with the system had a hope of being of any use to the Herald to begin with). The obvious non-controversial solution is to make the site as easy as possible to read, and require registration for commenting. Throw in a few simple social-networking features, and your offensive comments will decline drastically, and be much easier to enforce.

I do appreciate the difficulty of the Herald’s position here, though — deleting comments is tricky, because once you take an active role in comment moderation, you are more responsible, both in a commonsense way and in a legal way, for the comments that remain on the site. And of course journalists prefer to error on the side of free speech, reader-friendliness, and (more recently) “interactivity.” Of course in this situation, those three ideals stand somewhat in opposition to each other.

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  1. Kevin    Thu Dec 20, 04:05 PM #  

    One of the things I have noticed is that the Herald will not provide the comment feature for articles where they anticipate offensive comments (often articles dealing with African-Americans).



  2. jake    Thu Dec 20, 11:50 PM #  

    from a herald insider: the comment issue is just as contentious inside the newsroom as outside. many, , many reporters do NOT at all support the random, unregulated commenting that happens now. a new editor position has been created for which part of the oversight areas include “reader exchange” and how to handle commenting issues. they are working on things — slowly — but they’re trying, i guess. as you know, 1 herald plaza is not the best when it comes to anything web…



  3. jane doe    Fri Dec 21, 12:07 AM #  

    Cutting the Herald off from Google News and the Internet with a wall is going to accelerate the propulsion of English-literate residents out of Miami.

    My relatives who have been living in Miami-Dade since the end of WWII have been leaving in droves over the past couple of years.

    The Herald’s barrier will only encourage the rest to leave.

    I tried several ‘bugmenots’ without success today. From now on, I’ll just relegate the Herald to another unbreachable country like the imaginary land of Chachastan and bid it farewell.



  4. Hialeah for life    Fri Dec 21, 12:29 PM #  

    Jake, your right, the Herald heirarcy doesnt even know the website exist. However, the shocking explosion which the Herald internet has experienced is due in large part to the commenter exchanges, rather than the articles themselves. And yes, the Herald, like most other papers will always error on the side of open speech. The Herald, doesnt want to be known as the only big city paper, without a comment section. This is particularly true, with the Cuban-American staff that left a nation where open speech was not tolerated.

    Unfortunately, there are trade-offs, namely some racist comments against “both” Cubans and blacks. Yet, it is well known at 1 herald plaza that the racist comments against cubans are coming from racist whites that left Miami during the 1980’s because of the cocaine wars. This factoid based on “many” non-SoFlo ip addresses. Worst, is the embarrassing Cuban-American response, which is not to proudly respond to the white racist, who made the comments, “either out of fear, respect, or longing for acceptance from the racist slave master.” Rather, the upset Cuban-American makes racist statements against blacks. Again, based on Miami ip addresses. Regardless of ip blockers, that ring up Illinois.

    Hear that Henry?