In New Haven, a crisis over user comments

I’ve written a piece for the Nieman Journalism Lab about the New Haven Independent’s decision to suspend online comments. The move, by Independent founder and editor Paul Bass, is pretty dramatic, as his site is often looked to as a model for how to handle comments the right way. An excerpt:

So should the comments resume? I think they have to — they’re too integral a part of the Independent’s identity. Civic engagement has been on the wane for years, and it’s not enough for journalism merely to serve the public. As I wrote for The Guardian in 2009, news organizations need to recreate the very idea of a public by encouraging a sense of involvement and participation. At least until recently, the Independent did a remarkable job of doing just that. But clearly something changed.

Read the whole thing here.

2 thoughts on “In New Haven, a crisis over user comments

  1. Hey,Dan:

    I was going to comment on your story on the Nieman site, but comments don’t seem to be permitted. Which I see as a pretty swell idea.

    These are tough times for publishers and editors. The business model for journalism is being reinvented. And whatever emerges from the trauma will require more clarity than the profession has yet managed when it comes to defining who the customers are, identifying what they value and determining how to deliver that value at a reasonable profit. Devoting staff time to moderating food fights that can be hosted in thousands of other places on the web ain’t gonna serve the brand of future quality journalism. Rather, continuing to allow the kind of commentary that most publications post immediately below the work of their own staff undermines that brand.

    Time to get out of the refereeing business and wash the graffiti off the walls.

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