User comments seem to be a hot topic as of late. Much of it related to why newspapers should either eliminate or enhance them.
In a recent article on Gawker.com
, it was strongly suggested that comments should be rid of altogether, citing that "newspapers have more important things to do than worry about comments" and that blogs are "not equipped to regularly break the news."
They don't think that the comments a published story garners adds anything to the content, nor do they help to engage a discussion among readers. Though they do find value in the blogs
hosted by reporters, they argue that the comments posted by users do nothing more than expose the ignorance of readers and had they been submitted as letters to the editor, they would never been published in the first place.
An interesting point of view for a media site dedicated to commenting on the behaviors of others
. And a perspective with which Editor & Publisher differs. Editor & Publisher columnist Steve Outing proposes a different approach, suggesting that newspapers "integrate the work of professional reporters with eyewitness and community-expert content". For instance, readers would not only comment on a story, but contribute their eyewitness accounts, big or small, local and national, to the story. As a result, news stories would be expanded in order to provide a powerful public service for those who want or need to know more.
To deliver an interface that allows for such user-generated
contribution, the design of the site should incorporate "user-enhanced articles into single-page packages that mix professional reporting with community and expert contributions" with links pointing to community content.
Outing acknowledged that vetting would be required to ensure the quality and accuracy of contributed content. He even suggests that for eyewitness photos, submissions would be reviewed by photo editors before there are published online and that the reporters would be responsible for screening eyewitness reports and other text contributions, as well.
Though Outing maintains that newspapers
must embrace and enhance reader/audience participation to stay afloat in the new media, is it the responsibility of readers to give newspapers content? As well, it makes newspaper content only as good as its readers contributions. Much like the way CNN's iReport
relies on the shared content of its viewers, using reader's comments to enhance a story relinquishes the role of reporters and producers, while creating more work for understaffed newsrooms.
Regardless, the dialogue is merited and experimentation with news media
is always welcome.