Wisconsin Paper Eliminates Comments on Certain Story Types

By: E&P Staff

Scott Angus | gazettextra.com

Like many newspapers, we had high hopes when we first allowed readers to comment on stories on our website.

We introduced the feature three years ago. At the time, I wrote about the potential. Never in our community’s history had people of different backgrounds, beliefs and interests been able to have these kinds of conversations about developments and issues.

It hasn’t worked out as well as we hoped.

Yes, the comments are popular. We get about 10,000 a month. And yes, they bring traffic to gazettextra.com and allow people to interact. We tally about 4 million pageviews a month on our site, and many are related to comments.

The nastiness, however, is too much.

We’re not the only newspaper struggling with the issue. Papers around the country are assessing comments and implementing or looking for ways to make conversations on their websites more civil.

Starting today, the Gazette is taking a step that we hope will at least partly address the issue. It won’t solve the problems, but we think it will cut down on the ugliness.

We no longer allow comments on stories that involve crimes, courts, accidents, race or sex.

We and other papers identified those topics as the most troublesome. The comments typically start out OK, but they deteriorate into insults, innuendo or otherwise offensive remarks.

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