By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Two Alden papers, the Boston Herald and The Denver Post, will end commenting

Royalty-free photo via Wallpaper Flare

At least two daily newspapers owned by Alden Global Capital’s MediaNews Group will end reader comments on July 1.

The Boston Herald announced the move earlier today, saying that the change was being made to “dramatically speed up the performance of the website” as well as on its mobile platforms. The Denver Post took the same action last week, although editor Lee Ann Colacioppo cited bad behavior rather than technology, writing that the comment section has become “an uncivil place that drives readers away and opens those trying to engage in thoughtful conversation to hateful, personal attacks.”

Both papers emphasized that readers will still be able to talk back at them through social media platforms.

Wondering if this were a MediaNews-wide action, I tried searching about a half-dozen papers in the 60-daily chain and could find no similar announcements. I found something else interesting as well. The eight larger dailies that comprise the Tribune Publishing chain, which Alden acquired a couple of years ago, are now included as part of MediaNews Group, although they are still listed separately as well. (A ninth, the Daily News of New York, was split off from Tribune and is being run as a separate entity.)

The moves by the Herald and the Post represent just the latest in the long, sad story of user comments. When they debuted about a quarter-century ago, they were hailed as a way of involving the audience — the “former audience,” as Dan Gillmor and Jay Rosen put it. The hope was that comments could even advance stories.

It turned out that comments were embraced mainly by the most sociopathic elements. Some publishers (including me for a while) required real names, but that didn’t really help. The only measure that ensures a civil platform is pre-screening — a comment doesn’t appear online until someone has read it and approved it. But that takes resources, and very few news organizations are willing to make the investment.

The best comments section I know of belongs to the New Haven Independent, where pre-screening has been the rule right from the start. Keeping out racist, homophobic hate speech opens up the forum for other voices to be heard. The New York Times engages in pre-screening as well.

So kudos to the Boston Herald and The Denver Post — and I hope other news outlets, including The Boston Globe, will follow suit.

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  1. Stephen

    Bob Sprague of Arlington suggests I offer to debate you on this subject, since much of what he has “reported” about you makes me think you are foolish.

    Care to discuss? On twitter as a neutral forum.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Who are you? What do you want to debate about? Why should I debate you? And why would I want to do it on Twitter?

  2. Bob Sprague

    Stephen Harrington: You raised he possibility of such a debate at

  3. Stephen

    You know who I am since I provided my full name when I commented. You would have to ask Bob Sprague about why you should debate me; he suggests you would be a coward not to do so. I think much of what you wrote here is foolish. Twitter is a neutral platform for both of us.

    4 questions from you. One question you now need to answer from me.

    Want a discussion on twitter on why local journalism is failing due to the lack of integrity by journalists?

    • Dan Kennedy

      I’m not going to debate you on Twitter. Why should I? Do you think I should debate any rando who pops up online? If you want to make your case, you can do it right here.

    • Dan Kennedy

      OK, I made this offer on Patch, but the thread is impossible to follow. I’ve accepted your offer to debate on a neutral platform, but I won’t do it on Twitter. We can do it on Mastodon. You can find me at

      • Stephen

        You left up a dishonest comment on Patch; taking my opinion that this post of yours is foolish, as stating I wanted to debate whether you are a fool; while ignoring my offer here.

        Further, you answered “No” to my only question and then offered something else as tho a thread on Mastodon, among your supporters, was somehow neutral.

        Thanks for playing; try not to treat your customers as “rando” pieces of meat; you may find compassion is a better path to reconciling yourself with the unwashed masses.

        I understand now why Sprague thinks you are a thought leader.

        • Dan Kennedy

          You said you wanted to debate whether I’m a fool. I can’t help it if you don’t know grammar or syntax. I’ve offered to debate you on Mastodon, which is an entirely neutral Twitter alternative. The fact that you won’t do it shows that, in fact, you never had any intention of having a rational discussion.

  4. Stephen

    No Dan, that’s not what happened. My offer to debate you is recorded here; you declined. Substituting your own offer is not the same. I decline, just as you did. In the course of this back and forth on two forums, one which you control, one which is heavily censored, I found you to make several dishonest statements. Further, you use the same, tired tactics, some of which you decry in others.

    What did we learn?

    Dan Kennedy is dishonest, journalists treat their customers like “rando” pieces of meat, Sprague wants a monopoly on trolling and Patch censors use violent, homophobes to silence customers when deleting germane comments. You would have to be a fool
    to think comments are hurting “journalism”

    • Dan Kennedy

      You called me a “fool” on Patch before you even came over here. And you know damn well that you haven’t been censored here, so why are you whining?

  5. Stephen

    Now who is the one with limited reading comprehension? I understand, guys who live in echo chambers find it hard to follow two forums. Reread my comment above, anyone who is a wordsmith would agree, I stated Patch deleted germane comments.

    But you are a victim, bravo!

  6. Katherine Blake

    I often learn more and get a fuller understanding of an issue from reading the Boston Globe article comments. Readers also post links to other useful stories. If BG comments went away, it would be a real loss. Reporters don’t appear to be thorough,

    • Bob Sprague

      I agree, Katherine, but those who moderate online comments face a tough job with posters using aliases.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Katherine, I still think comments can be useful, but they need to be pre-screened. Many people won’t post comments because they’re afraid they’ll be attacked.

  7. K Ayoub

    Comment sections often offer useful insights beyond the text of a news story. Alden, however, takes a sledgehammer approach. I don’t know why the Denver Post can’t moderate comments. Nor can I see how the Boston Herald’s comments bog down the website. Seems like Alden’s the problem.

  8. NahantJim Walsh

    First, I’m wondering if Stephen was a plant to support the notion that “comments” can be a gateway to uncivilized behavior…insults, name-calling, excessive self-centeredness. I generally think of it as the “Facebook-Effect” which is why I rarely go there in recent years.

    As “nahantjim” I comment almost daily in the Boston Globe. I try to use complete sentences, stringing several of them together to form paragraphs. I’m sure I have not been completely successful in avoiding insults, but I try. My goal is to express an opinion in good English and engage in respectful debate if a conversation is started.

    A few years ago there was a conference at MIT that brought “media participants” together from around the country. It was an interesting day and a half. My favorite experience was meeting an online “adversary” when we, by chance, were seating ourselves at the same table. We had disagreed strongly. When we revealed our “stage names” to each other, what followed was simply wonderful. We hugged. We laughed. We suddenly saw each other as fully human beings. If I may say so…it was a very American kind of experience.

    I’ve been an activist-type since the 1960s as a Pro-Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam War kinda guy. I will now reveal in seven words the most basic lesson I have learned in the last 60 years…No one is persuaded by an insult.

    Thank you for all you do, Dan. Your occasional errors are fully forgiven!

  9. Kathleen ann Kulesza

    I occasionally comment on Globe articles but I would understand if they ended the comments. I don’t understand why people read the Globe when they disagree with everything they publish.

    • NahantJim Walsh

      It is very easy for Republican candidates or the Republican Party to hire or assign individuals to attack “wokeness” or anything that might enhance President Biden’s reputation. In other words, they’re not “reading” the Globe, they’re engaged in a political operation.

      I’m a center/Left person and, politically, I express opinions consistent with that point of view. I am interested in the arts–opera, ballet, chamber and symphonic music, et cetera–and consider them to be an important element in our culture and self-understanding. History and literature and their connections have been a part of my life for a very long time. I seek “the most likely truth” of matters…not The Truth.

      I became engaged with the comment section when it seemed dominated by barroom sports fans instead of literate exchanges of views and opinions.

      And I miss “Beat the Press” terribly.

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