DNT discontinues comments

Close readers of the Duluth News Tribune’s online edition may have noticed that the site no longer allows commenting under any stories, and I think that’s been the case for several days. I’m not privy to the reasons behind the decision, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the comments they were getting didn’t add any value to the site. Quite the opposite, in my opinion.

The DNT isn’t alone in this struggle. Personally, I’ve never seen intelligent comments on a news organization’s website. I think it’s probably better for them to just stick to content creation and allow people to link to the content via Facebook or some other social site, and discuss the content there.

What do you think? Do you miss the comments or do you applaud the decision?

60 Comments

wildknits

about 9 years ago

On the rare occasions I peeked at the comments I never saw anything that could pass for reasonable discourse on a subject. 

Some news sites do better (MinnPost, MPR, NPR, PDD).

Have to applaud their decision.

Lawrence Lee

about 9 years ago

I have almost always regretted reading the comments on news articles, with one or two exceptions. One was recently when this uninformed opinion piece was published and local gamers took the writer to task. I liked that.

TimK

about 9 years ago

But where will the poor haters go? Maybe we could do a fundraiser to help them out? I'm sure there are some bands that would play for free and of course canned goods (must have canned goods). Help the Homeless Haters, brought to you by the Candlelight Vigil Lobby...

Barrett Chase

about 9 years ago

Where will the poor haters go? Well, there's always Craigslist.

BadCat!

about 9 years ago

On the one hand, it was nice to be able to comment directly on a story. On the other hand, multitudes of racist idiots had already done that before you.

TimK

about 9 years ago

Precisely!!

Sam

about 9 years ago

A number of crazy people seems to spend all their time posting at the DNT.  Now those people will suddenly find themselves with a ton of free time.

I worry about what the crazies will be doing now, since the DNT just ended their public service to keep crazies off the streets and on the discussion boards.

ian

about 9 years ago

Same 3 or 4 posters on every story.  Plus a few religious folk (loved the defenders of the street preacher), couple libertarians, and few well-to-do folks...  Is DCB still around?  Maybe they will congregate there.  Anyway, will miss the comments for comic relief.

in.dog.neato

about 9 years ago

Ahhh ... so that is why Zedhead waded into PDD's "libtard"-ed waters. And here I was just assuming he was saucing it up and needed a hug. It turns out he's just "homeless."

secjewl

about 9 years ago

I rather enjoyed the comments.Especially from writers with strong political views who refuse to see the other side of the story.
Over the years I noticed that stories that could provoke politically incorrect comments no longer allowed comments.

I use to play a little mind game and try to predict if comments would be allowed based on the content of the story.

The funny thing about the commentators was their ability to find racial or political leanings in some the most innocuous of stories.
A story on a snow storm in May would bring out the global warming deniers however they remained silent during the unusual warmth of last winter.

Just recently the Anders Broman story of setting a state scoring record in basketball brought comments that because he played smaller Christian schools the record was not as noteworthy.I hope that the DNT rethinks their comment policy.Perhaps they could allow all comments but make people use their real names.However that would probably tame things down and take the fun out of reading them.

Sam

about 9 years ago

Using real names wouldn't help, since these people have no shame.

BadCat!

about 9 years ago

When the state parks were shut down, there was a story about Gooseberry, and how people were still going into it. The picture with the story showed several Tibetan monks in orange robes, but made no mention of them in the article.

A coworker of mine knew I had a commenting account said I should ask if anyone knew the story about the monks. I told him anytime my name shows up there, it gets thumbs-downed about 30 times. He said I was being silly and paranoid, and that I should post his question.

Within minutes of posting, my question had four thumbs-down.

jj

about 9 years ago

It seemed to me that the DNT wanted to stir the pot with just such articles to see what kind of responses they would get, however it gave the paper the credibility of a supermarket tabloid.

Conrad

about 9 years ago

Haha.  "AreaVoices" was the most negative focused group of people I have seen on the internet.  It scared me at first, thinking that many jerks could be in Duluth but I grew to enjoy the silliness of all the sanctimony and thumbsdown.

Claire

about 9 years ago

I had a meeting last month with DNT publisher Ken Browall and we discussed this very issue -- whether enabling comments on news stories was a good idea. It was so easy to abuse it.  If you are going to allow comments on stories you better damn well moderate it with an eagle eye -- like the NY Times does. And the "thumbs up/thumbs down" thing was complete bullshit. Drove me nuts. Glad they discontinued it -- even though I sure did have a good time the month before the election stirring the pot with the right-wing extremists who squat on Area Voices and worship our former Congressman, Chip Cravaack with a fervor that was truly frightening to behold.

DaVe

about 9 years ago

Good riddance. The couple of times I waded through those comments I left feeling like I had stepped in something nasty. And didn't they have some system where less "popular" comments were removed? The local Faux News dunces and reactionaries still have the Duluth Citizen's Blog all to themselves.

DaVe

about 9 years ago

The "thumbs up or down" thing mentioned above must have been what I was thinking about re: removing some comments.

Swan

about 9 years ago

Remember when DNT was only a printed publication and letters to the editors and other comments included the writers' full legal names? If the same policy were to be used online, people could not hide behind their user names and the nasty comments would disappear.

Claire

about 9 years ago

Swan, have you ever read the comments posted on Facebook on the Stop the Unfair Campaign page? Or the Northern Liberty Alliance's page? I assume people there are using their real names.  The comments often are just as nasty and crazed as they could be on Area Voices. I'm sure there are a lot of people posting comments on those two FB pages who were active participants in Area Voices.

udarnik

about 9 years ago

This seemed like a good opportunity for Robin Washington to use his editor's note to talk to readers about the change, but he didn't today.

Barrett Chase

about 9 years ago

I liked the idea of the thumbs-up/down voting, even though it didn't work in the DNT's case. It does work on other sites such as Reddit (well, depending on which sub you're on).

I agree with Claire that while it may seem that getting rid of anonymity will get rid of the racists and trolls, that isn't necessarily true. In most of the bad cases we've dealt with here on PDD, we've known the real identities of the offenders because they've made no attempt to hide who they are.

Claire

about 9 years ago

I am ok with the voting thumbs up/down per se, but I did not like comments being hidden if they got enough thumbs down votes. Especially because often it had nothing at all to do with the quality of the comments, but with the political opinions expressed, or the identity of the commenter. I was posting for about a week or two before the election, and the alliances were pretty clearly drawn between commenters when it came to thumbs up or down. Sometimes, I wouldn't even read an entire comment, before giving it thumbs up or down.

I actually got kicked off of Area Voices a week or two before the election, even though I -- to my knowledge -- did not violate their stated policies concerning comments. My crime was that I criticized a report about Rick Nolan disrupting the Senior Expo at the DECC. I thought the article was poorly sourced and shoddy journalism with an obvious agenda. I backed up my opinions with evidence from the Senior Expo's own website and from other media reports about the incident. Someone at the DNT did not like that. The same comment that got me kicked off of Area Voices was published in The Reader. 

My attitude is that if the DNT is going to allow comments on their stories, they should be prepared to deal with readers doing exactly what I did. I am really glad they took down the comments section. It was divisive and accomplished nothing, really, except to piss people off against each other.

DaVe

about 9 years ago

I remember when letters to the editor were printed with the writer's name AND ADDRESS. Once I had some whack-job drop about 1/2 dozen brand- new right-wing and racist books on my porch.

Tom

about 9 years ago

It appears as though comments were discontinued on all of Forum's websites, so I highly doubt it was a decision made by DNT management. I believe that the AreaVoices site was allowed to continue, despite public backlash, largely because plenty of traffic was headed there and traffic equals advertising dollars.

It's certainly curious that the AreaVoices would suddenly no longer be used for comments. Here are my theories:

1) It will be back soon. Hasn't there been a couple times in the past where AE disappeared for brief periods of time?

2) It's no longer profitable and/or is a waste of time and resources for the webmasters.

3) Forum finally realized how absolutely insane 90% of the commenters are and that allowing their nonsensical attacks to continue adds nothing to the quality of the journalism. (Not to mention that most reporters would tell you they hate online comments.

4) They are transitioning to a new commenting system. A lot of news sites have moved to a Facebook platform, which, hypothetically, means that people have to use their real names. Of course it's very easy to create a fake Facebook account, but sites using Facebook seem to have fewer batshit crazy commenters than AreaVoices.

Danny

about 9 years ago

I haven't read many of the comments on DNT stories in quite a while.  The annonymity has always annoyed me, and in this day and age of Facebook (where that annonymity is essentially taken away) there just never seemed to be a point to even bothering with it.

For the record though, a few people here have mentioned the DCB.  I did purchase the domain duluthcitizensblog.com last year and I pretty much killed it off.  Just a little FYI.

TheKujawa

about 9 years ago

Prince Valiant sucks!

spy1

about 9 years ago

Tom is close. It's all about liability. There will not be a forthcoming incarnation. The lawyers speak.

Claire

about 9 years ago

I wouldn't be surprised, spy1. Also, at least where the DNT is concerned, there was a little problem concerning confidentiality concerning the identities of commenters and other information that should have remained privy only to DNT staffers. I know of two cases concerning two different Duluth women where confidential information about their participation on Area Voices was obtained and used by someone else who participated on Area Voices and also maintains a local "political" blog that's basically a crappy rip-off of the Drudge Report. Liability indeed.

johnjaundice

about 9 years ago

The comments on DNT were hilarious. Really good insight into the offbeat, right-wing views of our area.

Steve H

about 9 years ago

I agree that comments appended directly to news stories tend to lack rationality, as opposed to comments on sites that have more independence and deliberacy. However, on the other hand, there is such thing as the ability to edit and moderate. I don't know why newspapers struggle so with editing and moderating online comments. They do it with their original stories, they do it with letters to the editor; why can't they be better at it in their comment streams. 

I think they are afraid of what is essentially real time feedback, feedback which often seems to speak to the newspaper itself, and its style, editorial slant, etc. I have been banned from newspaper comment streams because of comments critical to the newspaper. I didn't break any rules (at least from my interpretation). The newspaper refused to dialogue with me on the reasons behind my being banned. I know others this has happened to.

My preference is for the comments to continue. This is a freedom of speech issue. Not so much a First Amendment issue, as courts have held that newspaper readers do not have a right to expression in the newspaper pages, but a freedom of speech issue nevertheless. 

DNT would be far better off embracing this issue. It is unfortunate that they have chosen to avoid it.

spy1

about 9 years ago

Steve H: As long as those who want to comment pony up the salary for a moderator, great. Have you looked around the news industry lately? I'd rather have a reporter than a babysitter for neanderthal commentary. Write a GD letter to the editor if you feel so strongly about something.

BadCat!

about 9 years ago

Also consider that having their comments hosted by someone else probably requires the DNT to pay them. If your budget was tight, shutting up ranting idiots would be the first thing off my list.

TimK

about 9 years ago

Actually, the first off their list was the art department, then the reporters and even some of the sales staff. They are a skeleton compared to their pre-Forum glory.

Claire

about 9 years ago

I was listening to KUWS Friday, they were airing a program about Larry Oakes, with journalists Dominic Papatola, Georgia Swing, and Laurie Hertzel. If I heard correctly, Georgia Swing said there are currently 10 reporters on staff at the DNT. Like spy1 says, when you have limited staff and resources, why waste them on something like Area Voices?

BadCat!

about 9 years ago

Yea, DNT has done A LOT of cutting. I love that whenever they have an article about some company laying off employees, the photo with it is an empty DNT cubicle.

Tom

about 9 years ago

BadCat!, what's even funnier about that to me is that the Minnesota Workforce Center is literally on the same block as the DNT and they could just as easily send a photographer there to take pictures of all the people looking for work. If only they had photographers left.

Chickonen

about 9 years ago

I do find that some news organizations are able to cultivate quality input and discussion associated with their stories (Washington Post and Minnpost leap to mind). In any case, I've been conditioned over the years to ignore comments.

I'd postulate that there is a correlation between the quality and temperament of a news organization's op-ed page, and their user-generated content online. So readership base and editorial policy and input have the potential to make a big difference with both.

Unfortunately, some news outlets select letters for publication based on their potential to generate controversy. My opinion is that the DNT has been cultivating a shrill discourse on the op-ed page for years, and that naturally spreads to the online comments.

Claire

about 9 years ago

Chickonen may be onto something... OK, so last week, it's bad enough that the DNT publishes the non-story about Jim Fetzer pissing people off with his latest conspiracy theories. And then Sunday, they must be the only "legitimate" print media outlet in the USA to give Fetzer space on the op-ed page to write about his insane theories concerning Sandy Hook. The dead body of the alleged assassin stored overnight in the school? Actors playing bereaved parents? Murdered principals perhaps not murdered, because they're calling the local media?  Israeli death squads roaming the Connecticut countryside? I think the DNT hit a new low by running Fetzer's op-ed. Jesus Christ.

Danny

about 9 years ago

Holy crap.  I think this might be the first time I've ever agreed 100% with a comment posted anywhere from the person who commented last here.

Thomas

about 9 years ago

Another perspective on Chick's concept of--
" My opinion is that the DNT has been cultivating a shrill discourse on the op-ed page for years, and that naturally spreads to the online comments.  "

Regardless of Forum Communication, the DNT is YOUR hometown newspaper.  The Area Voices was YOUR opportunity to participate.  And for the same amount of time and effort it takes to lay down opinions in this space, you could do the same on the DNT space.
The difference is that the visitors from the outside world have a much better chance to stumble across the DNT online than PDD.  Those people who may be the next wave of business owners, residents, retirees, really only had the DNT Area Voices as the online gauge of the pulse of this community.
YOU allowed the crazies, deniers, haters, and such to define YOUR city to those folks.
If you want to argue the size of the impact was minimal go ahead.  I was embarrassed by comments from friends who thought Duluth was run over by right wing fanatics based on Area Voices.  I had to reassure them that Duluth really has cool people in it, they just want to be 'nice' and not bother anyone.
IF the DNT comes back with some comment mechanism it is my hope that the residents of this Zenith City will take it upon themselves to recognize that in this digital world we send signals in many ways, and we should pay attention to how OUR city speaks.  thank you

BadCat!

about 9 years ago

I wish that they had some ability to report abusive posts, rather than waiting for a bunch of people to thumb-down some horrible comment.

Sam

about 9 years ago

There was a time when I participated often in the DNT forums in an effort to define my hometown in positive ways.  In the end I felt like I was a drop in a vast ocean of crazies who systematically misunderstood everything I said.

Chickonen

about 9 years ago

It certainly is distressing to think that some people form an impression of Duluthians from reading comments on the DNT's page, but it does not follow that we have a civic responsibility to submit content to the DNT. "The medium is the message," as they say.

Good posters that promote a quality discourse spend a lot of time and energy on generating content. It's reasonable to refrain from participating in a medium where messages are censored for falling out of line with the echo chamber, ad hominem attacks are routine, and veracity has been neglected to a point of obscurity.

I do appreciate and take to heart Thomas and others pointing out that individuals should contribute to the zeitgeist in a positive way, but I don't see how the DNT's prominence as a brand obliges us to its service if it devalues or undermines quality.

(Or in other words, what Sam said...)

Claire

about 9 years ago

One can't expect people to spend 24/7 on their computers, interacting with people they would never associate with in real life, i.e. "crazies, deniers, haters, and such," just so people from outside Duluth don't get the wrong impression of our fair city. I say it's the responsibility of the DNT to either moderate Area Voices in such a way that the crazies, haters, and deniers don't take over, like there is a consensus that they did, or to just cut out comments altogether. 

The moderation of Area Voices was a joke.

edgeways

about 9 years ago

Pah.. plenty of voices on Area Voices had little to do with Duluth, just people bopping around looking for something to bitch about. At the end of the day it is the DNT's responsibility to moderate it's comment section. And while the DNT certainly has some great people working for them here and there, overall it is a fucking hack of a paper and that carried through to their online capabilities. Know why comment sections are not flooded with people talking about GREAT things? Because they are out doing great things rather than wasting their time in a fruitless endeavor to fix the internet. When they want to talk about it they will find someplace other than a cesspit to announce/talk about it. 
Good rule of thumb, want to know about a place? The last place you should check out is the comment section of the local newspaper. Might as well trawl around random youtube comments.

TimK

about 9 years ago

If a business or individual was using the DNT comments section to determine whether or not they moved here, I for one, am glad they are staying away.

in.dog.neato

about 9 years ago

wait...so it's *our* fault Area Voices was populated by racist misogynist bigot assholes because PDD?

bull. shit.

please move on.

[email protected]

about 9 years ago

If a good daily local paper is important to you, you are obligated to collaborate with it -- submit writings, submit leads, and make it a part of your life.

Or, you can say "the Budgeteer and PDD are all I need."

in.dog.neato

about 9 years ago

The Budgeteer is good for Rosemarie Mitchell's Musings.

TimK

about 9 years ago

IF the daily paper actually cared about US. Forum Communications has demonstrated over and over again that their interests are not the same as the majority of our community. There is nothing short of starting a rival daily that will make a substantive difference.

in.dog.neato

about 9 years ago

...and for soaking up oil on the driveway and making papier mache heads.

Claire

about 9 years ago

In.Dog.Neato, I happen to love Rosemarie Mitchell's musings, her LTEs are classic and I wish the DNT would publish her more often.

Tom

about 9 years ago

Rosemarie Mitchell wrote probably the most viewed article/column/LTE in the history of the Budgeteer, so she must be doing something right.

in.dog.neato

about 9 years ago

She's a riot, though her preoccupation with boobs is a little disturbing.

Claire

about 9 years ago

Ah yes, the infamous "Olympics Shows Too Much Flesh" LTE. Best LTE EVER.

 http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/240419/

Claire

about 9 years ago

Oh, look what I found! The Mitchells' LTE was the subject of a Strib blog! 

http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/167065645.html

Tom

about 9 years ago

Yeah, but I'm guessing page views were driven a lot more by sites like Deadspin, Buzzfeed, and The Inquisitr>.

Danny

about 9 years ago

Also sites like catsthatlooklikehitler.com

Chickonen

about 9 years ago

Hmm.. So now I am wondering, what is the value generated by having one of your letters to the editor go viral, as in that case, if you're the DNT? Ad revenue? An ability to boast an outlandishly high number of page views to prospective advertisers? It seems like they are always looking for the next Ms. Mitchell...

Tom

about 9 years ago

The DNT has been posting the total page every month at the top of the website for quite some time. Looks good to advertisers, even if the numbers are inflated due to an obscure viral letter like that.

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