More on WashPost removes blog comments

Jay Rosen and Dan Gillmor have some good talk on the Washington Post decision to take comments off in response to a flood re Deborah Howell’s recent writing–Dan succinctly says: “Comments are definitely worth having, even when they cause problems. Listening and responding are as important in tomorrow’s journalism as speaking.”
Jay talks with WaPo exec ed Jim Brady and says “I also understand why Brady did what he did. If lets stand extreme charges aimed to maximize rage at Howell, and some of the charges contain ugly personal insults, then Brady’s position becomes impossible if the staff of the Washington Post objects, and demands to know:
–Why are we giving space to people who wish for our destruction and call for our heads?
–Jim, it’s not like there are’t other spaces online where that can and will be said robustly.
–Does transparency really mean making room for: death to the Washington Post, and down with their ombudsman too? ”
Jim Brady weighs in with a sensible comment I like: “As a site, we’ve decided there have to be limits on the language people can use. I’m getting a lot of e-mail saying, essentially, that I need to accept the fact that profanity and name-calling are part of the web DNA. That may be true for the Web as a whole, though I hope not, but I don’t run the Web as a whole, I run, and on our site, we get to make the rules. Readers can reject those rules, and post elsewhere. That’s their right. There are plenty of blogs that will allow commenters to say whatever they want; we’re just not going to be one of those.”
Susan sez: I think this is just great on Jim’s part–he does get to make the rules, and there is always another diner down the block if people don’t like’em.

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  1. Jay Rosen says:

    Hi, Susan! Thanks for your post. It’s Deborah Howell, not Denise, and the comment shut down came not at Howell’s blog–she has none–but, which is run by the editors of It was serving as a stand-in forum because there is no comment function or blog attached to the ombudsman, itself part of the problem and one of the things I asked Brady about.

  2. Jill Miller Zimon says:

    As a former Ombudsman (for a children and family mental health agency) and now a writer and blogger, what Mr. Brady says sounds reasonable. The trick is to know how trustworthy Mr. Brady is. I’m not familiar with him, but again, based on the explanation you provide (via Jay Rosen’s conversation with Brady), it sounds like a thought-out, appropriate action.
    I agree. There has to be a limit, somewhere. Comments, IMHO, should not be a free for all, unless that truly is the desire of the blog host.

  3. susan mernit says:

    Jay–thanks for getting the facts straight–my apologies–and for your heklping to draw out Jim’s views.
    Jill–I agree–and I happen to know and trust Jim Brady, a very thoughtful editor.

  4. Tish G says:

    Hi Susan,
    As I said on Jay’s blog, and as you know, even individuals have trouble dealing with negative (even foul) comments….I liked Dan’s solution for the Post: get an email verification feature. If people are interested in having their voices heard, even if those voices are negative, they will go thru the extra step of verification. It also might get people to think twice and not to be so knee-jerk in their responses. Engaging that part of the brain where reason resides seems to be a lost art.

  5. Aaron Brazell says:

    I wrote quite a bit about this issue (2 entries!) I think old media dabbling in new media when they really don’t have a firm grasp on new media is foolish. This is not a slam against the Post. I admire the fact that they are trying. More so than most other MSM outlets. That said, taking comments off blogs basically makes the blog identical to the rest of their paper. It takes the interactive dialogue which IS blogging away and makes it a one sided conversation.
    In my humble opinion, if the WP was not willing to pony up personnel to watch this stuff and moderate trolls, they shouldn’t have jumped into the blogosphere.
    I run 5 blogs and very few of them require large scale moderation. In reality though, I also don’t have the exposure of the WP.

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