Friday, May 20, 2005

Ventura, Calif., paper deletes comments option

The Ventura County Star started an interesting experiment, allowing readers to post comments related to its stories.

It was a hit from the beginning. Then the readership's commentary turned ugly over race and immigration issues. They tried to moderate the flames, but decided it took too much time.

The viciousness of the comments began to escalate. We found more and more of our time was being spent moderating the comments. With comments posted on dozens of stories, it ate up much of our day.

And it also showed the unfortunate underbelly of the Internet. The anonymity offered by the Internet on comments like this seems to encourage people to say the meanest, ugliest things about other people. You know that many of those comments would never be made in person.

It's sad.

It seems like they could have found a way around this problem. Allow comments during a certain window of the day or night, hire some local journalism student at mimimum wage to police the comments, and carry on. Instead, they throw up their hands and cave in to the haters.

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