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Ethics of news site comments

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News site comments have become a cesspool of hate and ignorance. Should we blame the commenters — or find more effective ways of engaging with our communities?

News site comments have become a cesspool of hate and ignorance. Should we blame the commenters — or find more effective ways of engaging with our communities?

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  • 1. Don’t be a pr1ckOnline comments and the challenge of community engagement
  • 2. Wisdom of the crowd? • Or the madness of the mob?
  • 3. Wisdom of the crowd? • Or the madness of the mob? • Idealistic hopes for news-site comments gave way to reality
  • 4. Wisdom of the crowd? • Or the madness of the mob? • Idealistic hopes for news-site comments gave way to reality • How can we involve our readers in ways that are positive and useful?
  • 5. Talking back to the Globe• The David Brudnoy rule
  • 6. Talking back to the Globe• The David Brudnoy rule• Globe policy: Watch for “pr1ck” and libelous statements like “Carl Crawford is dealing drugs in the dugout.”
  • 7. Talking back to the Globe• The David Brudnoy rule• Globe policy: Watch for “pr1ck” and libelous statements like “Carl Crawford is dealing drugs in the dugout.”• Comments turned off for personal tragedy, religion stories, etc.
  • 8. The Winnipeg solution• Moderating comments is a soul-sucking experience, dreaded by Globe staff members
  • 9. The Winnipeg solution• Moderating comments is a soul-sucking experience, dreaded by Globe staff members• In April 2011, the Globe contracted with ICUC of Winnipeg to stay on top of comments
  • 10. The Winnipeg solution• Moderating comments is a soul-sucking experience, dreaded by Globe staff members• In April 2011, the Globe contracted with ICUC of Winnipeg to stay on top of comments• Better than nothing — but is outsourcing moderation any way to engage with your community?
  • 11. The price of free speech• The Register puts comments up automatically and depends on the crowd to report offensive ones
  • 12. The price of free speech• The Register puts comments up automatically and depends on the crowd to report offensive ones• “these shootings save the taxpayers millions … not only in welfare costs but in section 8, food stamps, health care. it is time to consider sterilization …”
  • 13. The price of free speech• The Register puts comments up automatically and depends on the crowd to report offensive ones• “these shootings save the taxpayers millions … not only in welfare costs but in section 8, food stamps, health care. it is time to consider sterilization …”• In late 2011, under new leadership, the Register announced it would begin screening all comments
  • 14. A better approach• All comments are screened before posting: “Yes we do censor reader comments. We’ll continue to.”
  • 15. A better approach• All comments are screened before posting: “Yes we do censor reader comments. We’ll continue to.”• Anonymity is allowed, but racist, sexist and personally insulting comments are not posted
  • 16. A better approach• All comments are screened before posting: “Yes we do censor reader comments. We’ll continue to.”• Anonymity is allowed, but racist, sexist and personally insulting comments are not posted• A civil conversation that often adds to the story and that fosters civic engagement — a virtuous circle
  • 17. Anonymity versus real names• Howard Owens requires registration and real names at his community news site in western New York
  • 18. Anonymity versus real names• Howard Owens requires registration and real names at his community news site in western New York• “It starts with basic news ethics: Readers have a right to know who is saying what.”
  • 19. Anonymity versus real names• Howard Owens requires registration and real names at his community news site in western New York• “It starts with basic news ethics: Readers have a right to know who is saying what.”• What do you think is gained from a real-names policy? What is lost? Which is preferable?
  • 20. Comments are so 2005• Facebook fosters civil dialogue in a familiar, real-names space
  • 21. Comments are so 2005• Facebook fosters civil dialogue in a familiar, real-names space• Twitter allows reporters to promote work and engage with users
  • 22. Comments are so 2005• Facebook fosters civil dialogue in a familiar, real-names space• Twitter allows reporters to promote work and engage with users• Have traditional news- site comments outlived their usefulness?

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