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The Comments Section – The Writer’s Best Tool For Feedback

how to be an ass by Slate.com and Jason Pontin of MIT Technology Review…

The Story

So a little back story first… When I started Pink Ink I had no comment policy, I hadn’t thought about comments at all, I just thought about writing what I wanted to write.

Well, then I started reading TechDirt more frequently… and I noticed that the community that exists in the comment section of each and every article they published was wildly diverse, funny, interesting, and often ended up being longer than the original article.
When I saw that, I saw something beautiful… I saw people coming together for fun, for discussion, for communal venting of frustrations…
Rarely did it ever get out of hand.
There’s something beautiful in that… and I wanted that for my website. I wanted my writing to inspire people to go even further, to discuss more, to share their feelings. I wanted to help provide that sort of basic community whenever anybody showed up at my site.

And then, TechDirt cemented in my mind the value of the comment section and my value as the writer and moderator.

In reality studies have found that comment sections can be dramatically improved — simply by treating site visitors well and by having somebody at the website make a basic effort at fundamental human-to-human communication:

One surprisingly easy thing they found that brought civil, relevant comments: the presence of a recognized reporter wading into the comments.

Seventy different political posts were randomly either left to their own wild devices, engaged by an unidentified staffer from the station, or engaged by a prominent political reporter. When the reporter showed up, “incivility decreased by 17 percent and people were 15 percent more likely to use evidence in their comments on the subject matter,” according to the study.’

Source: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160711/10573434936/new-york-times-public-editor-scolded-suggesting-websites-should-treat-news-commenters-like-actual-human-beings.shtml

That said it all for me. Pink Ink is my property after all, I am the writer, I should be making myself visible in the comments section.

And that’s what I did. You’ll find me all over the comments… people have even thanked me for taking the time to reply.

I feel that says a lot about what people want from writers.

Apparently, other people feel differently. After the new public editor of The New York Times, Liz Spayd, penned an article saying The New York Times should engage with its users more… other journalists had a temper tantrum.

Here’s Jason Pontin of MIT Technology Review

 

He went on to qualify his statements on twitter…

 

Wow.

 

Okay, let’s just ignore all of that nonsense for now and keep moving…

Now onto Slate.com‘s Issac Chotnier and his foaming at the mouth arrogance!

The public editor job’s is to examine the Times on a regular basis and respond to readers who are upset about various aspects of the paper’s journalism. Neither of these functions demands something like the utterly misguided first column she has penned. You might think that amid a general dumbing down of news coverage and with local newspapers losing circulation, the Times’ commitment to quality journalism is all the more necessary and urgent (and even strategically sensible).

Pretty sure that she can write whatever she wants and can express her opinions about engaging users from a personal perspective as well as from the perspective of an employee of The New York Times. (Also, if you’d like to see dumbing down just read Slate.)

Hate to break it to you….. but comment sections increase the quality of articles. On numerous occasions the comments section has allowed me to directly clarify matters with my users as well as make corrections to the article. That increases the quality of my writing, it increases the quality of my site, and makes my users happy. I’m sorry you’ve apparently never experienced that @ Slate… but anyways… moving on!

 

Spayd’s phony populism is bizarre coming from a journalist. If the reporters and editors at the Times don’t know journalism better than the average person, then why are they being paid to make journalistic decisions? Why was Spayd being paid to make them at CJR?

Haaaaaaa wow.
So basically… it’s bizarre that Spayd wants to treat people like… well, people. Apparently it’s bizarre that she doesn’t want to treat readers like the peons they are compared to the high quality journalist class.
I guess this is the new class warfare… arrogant journalist being pissy because one of their own dares to challenge orthodoxy.

 

There are many flaws with journalism and journalists, and readers deserve the best possible news coverage and commentary on whatever device they use to read it. A public editor who wanted to keep the Times’ staff on its toes would be a great service to the paper’s subscribers. Spayd seems to view her job differently, though, which is a real problem. But who cares what I think? If Spayd is popular with readers, I’m sure she will consider her work a success.

Source: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/07/10/liz_spayd_s_first_nyt_public_editor_column_is_real_bad.html

God bless. I haven’t read such snotty little shit writing in quite a while.
Whatever.
Let’s be done with this.

As a business, it is The New York Times job to meet people’s needs. If that includes a comment section… then that’s what they should do. If you’re not willing to meet the needs of people who you told would have their needs met by you… then you should close up shop.
Your job is not to collect rents from society, but to serve a purpose.
As writers, The New York Times employees should be extremely interested in what their readers have to say. Their readers can provide feedback, help make corrections, point out things you may have missed, make funny comments… all of these things make your life as a writer better as well as the lives of everybody else.
Your readers are the reason you exist, they are your life blood, treat them as such.
As fellow journalists, Journalists should realize that because they have an outlet to voice their opinions… they enjoy the very right to speak that they’re so interested in denying everybody else by eliminating the comment section.

 

Ending Thoughts

The comments section has been nothing but good to me. It has helped me be a better writer, it has helped my readers get the information they want, it has helped my website as a business.
I don’t think I could ever bring myself to disable Pink Ink’s comment section… how other journalists can’t see the benefits of comment sections is beyond me…

And if we’re being honest with ourselves here, is this level of arrogance really what we want out of our dear “high quality journalists”? Is this how we, the users and supporters of their very existence, want to be treated? They already assault us with autoplay video, with a million ads, with obvious political puff pieces… The level of disrespect is frankly amazing.
Do you see how they phrased their writing? It’s like they think they’re special little snowflakes while everybody else is just the dumb grubby masses.
How does that not piss you off?

The fact that “high quality journalists” first reaction to a person suggesting media companies actually engage with their users is a bunch of foaming at the mouth articles should shock you.

I just don’t understand how this behavior is acceptable.

And…

I’d just like to end this article by saying that you readers may not be welcome where those ‘high quality journalists’ write… but you’re welcome here.

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2 thoughts on “The Comments Section – The Writer’s Best Tool For Feedback

  1. Sometimes the press complains that they lose readers. The problem is that they see readers as numbers, and they try the cheapest tricks to increase those numbers.

    They dont treat us as customers, who visit a website because they find it valuable. They dont understand that our loyalty comes from serving us, not the other wat around.

    1. It’s weird… I’ve heard what you said from a great number of people and yet mainstream media companies absolutely refuse to address their own behavior. It’s quite literally like being in an abusive relationship.
      I feel we all deserve better.

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