GJR readers weigh in on online comments for news articles

Thanks to everyone who participated in Gateway Journalism Review’s survey about online comments for news articles.

The first question in the survey asked, “Should news organizations ask for comments about online stories?” and 81.8 percent of the respondents said yes.

For this question, one respondent wrote: “I don't know that they should necessarily solicit comments, but I like the option to comment if I so desire. I often find that the comments, particularly on controversial subjects, to be as interesting and illuminating – if not more so – than the original article.”

Question No. 2 asked, “If comments are allowed, should people be required to register as ‘users’?” and 70.3 percent said yes.

“Absolutely!” one commenter wrote. “It makes people more accountable. I think that you would probably have fewer people making inflammatory comments if they know that what they say can be traced to a user identity.”

The third question was, “If registration is required, should people be required to use their real name?” Of those who voted, 80 percent said yes.

“I can see the need for anonymity in some cases, but they should be required to register with their real names, at least,” one voter wrote. “A lack of accountability leads to infestations of trolls, and drives out thoughtful responses.”

Next, the survey asked, “If the website has a pay wall, should only paid subscribers be allowed to comment?” The majority, 58.1 percent, said no.

One commenter with the minority view summed it up this way: “If one cares enough to pay, then they should not have to be subjected to the positions of those who are unwilling to contribute to the forum. We must learn that talk should not be cheap.”

When asked whether website administrators should be allowed to delete comments, 81.8 percent of the respondents said yes.

“They should be encouraged to delete them,” one respondent wrote. “Comments affect a news site’s image. If that’s worth protecting, a news organization will delete comments that damage its brand.”

The question “How often do you post comments about online articles?” generated several different answers. Forty percent said they never post comments; 25.4 percent said they do once or twice a year; 18.1 percent said they post comments once or twice a month; and 9 percent said they comment once or twice a week. Just 1.8 percent said they post comments daily.

“Even when I want to comment, I just don’t,” one survey respondent wrote. “I have written directly to writers, though, particularly to point out mistakes (mostly CNN, not people who are my friends, though I would write them as well if I saw something).”

When asked if they read the online comments about articles, 83.6 percent said they do.

“Oh, yesss,” one commenter said. “They’re invariably hilarious. Too serious in tone, the quote from somebody at Google about bounce rates and interactivity, the disapproving acknowledgement that the Internet is full of horrible people – it’s like a York mystery play for journalists. And the comments on those stories are always from deep down in the crazy guts of the Internet.”

The next question asked, “Do you think the online comments influence the way you think about the article and the topics in the article?” Just 5.4 percent of the survey respondents agreed with this question, while 25.4 percent said only somewhat. The top response, at 40 percent, was that “it depends on the topic,” and the next-highest response, at 30.9 percent, was “no.”

“Well, I’d certainly like to think they don’t, but I suspect the data would show that they do, to all of us, even when we might not realize it,” one wrote.


Share our journalism