Will commenting break online news organizations?

I’ll be honest. When I started to write this post, I planned on going in a completely different direction.

I thought I would rant for a while about how The Buffalo News doesn’t get social media because of how difficult it is to post a simple “Great article” comment, let alone a ranting-and-raving comment. However, as I researched the article I originally tried to comment on, I came across another article regarding the comment sections and how they had changed.

Basically, the editor explained people had abused the commenting privileges by posting racist and hateful things. She and the other editors believed this was largely because commenters could act anonymously.

So, to combat this issue, The News decided to eliminate that anonymity. To comment on a story, readers now have to go through a registration process that involves verifying the commenter’s identity through the post office and by phone.

Getting rid of anonymity makes sense. If people are going to say hateful things, they should at least have their names attached.

However, this obstacle-ridden process makes it challenging for someone like myself to comment on a story. Not being from the Buffalo area, I probably won’t have much to do with The Buffalo News after leaving Bonaventure, so I felt immediately frustrated when asked to go through a lengthy verification process just to say, “Nice work!” and then probably never comment again.

While this experience saddened me, it’s surely an interesting debate, which Ms. Sullivan mentions. But is how the The Buffalo News handled the debate the best possible option? Surely there’s no black-and-white answer here, but what do you think?

How should news organizations manage stories’ online comments section?

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6 thoughts on “Will commenting break online news organizations?

    1. That’s a great idea. Another one I’ve used is Disqus, which Mashable also uses. That would be a good idea for them! And thanks for reading 🙂

  1. Great observation, Ruth. I agree. The process needs to be much simpler. Expecting people to go through a verification process that extensive in no way encourage users to be involved with the news. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding about the purpose and function of social media. Yes, there will be inappropriate comments, but that’s why you create a policy, give guidelines and explain that such comments will be removed. Otherwise, let people comment freely without awaiting approval or needing to a post office and/or phone verification.

    1. Exactly. While I see where they are coming from in their process, I agree it’s not what social media is about. Making people provide their names rather than just providing some joke user name might be helpful, but I feel they are possibly being a bit too traditional in this case.

  2. I think The Buffalo News has an interesting idea. I think many of their frequent visitors won’t mind the registrations, but you’re right–people who only visit or comment a few times might not bother. I’m sure still others won’t be happy to give up their personal info so easily. But if you think about it, they’re making online commenting more like sending a letter to the editor. I kind of like it, but I’m not sure it will be popular. I think the best way to monitor comments is to have a few people review them before they can be posted. That way racist, sexist comments won’t get posted, but there’s a system of checks to prevent one person from deleting all posts they simply don’t like.

    1. I agree. Frequent visitors won’t mind, and maybe that’s really all they care about. And giving out the personal information is definitely a concern. Even if someone trusts The Buffalo News with that information, what if it accidentally gets in the wrong hands? I agree, having a reviewer would probably be best and I also agree with attaching a name to the post — posts without a legitimate name won’t go up.

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