About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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« When the Presses Go Silent | Main | The New Philly.com »

May 07, 2008


Nico Macdonald

Many of these issues were discussed at an Innovation Forum Future Media series event Soapboxes in cyberspace: how can the media facilitate debate online? http://futuremedia.spy.co.uk/SoapboxesInCyberspace/ held at the Guardian Newsroom in London last year, and the discussion in the UK has developed somewhat from there. The best thing newspapers could do would simply be to look at the characteristics of conversation and debate in the real world and replicate them (to the extent it is possible) in the design of online fora, including comments.

Michele McLellan

Hi Mark. Good post. Keep reminding people. I've lately been talking with news organizations that seem to be figuring out comments and I've written some of that up here: www.knightdigitalmediacenter.org/leadership_blog/tips_for_keeping_comments_clean/



Actually, it was not The Day that turned off the comments. It was the Norwich Bulletin, which took part in the forum held by The Day.

Mark Potts

My apologies: I misread The Day's story and thought it was the paper that had turned off comments. I've corrected the post to show it was the Norwich Bulletin.

Beth Lawton

If the newspaper needs help, we've got it: The Newspaper Association of America released "The Online Community Cookbook" in March that (literally) has step-by-step instructions on how to deploy, manage and grow a healthy commenting and community interaction system on newspaper Web sites. It's at http://www.naa.org/digitaledge/cookbook

Howard Owens

I am fully responsible for all comment situations at all GateHouse papers, including the Bulletin.

We've been turning an incomplete commenting system on our papers because it's better -- if possible -- to have comments than not. While we wait for the proper community application to be built, we've gone with what we've had.

Of course, I was behind the Ventura County Star launching comments in 2004 ... while not the first newspaper to launch comments on stories, it was a very uncommon practice back then and many papers had tried comments and stopped. We were determined to make it work, and were ultimately successful.

The subsequent press coverage of what happened in Ventura helped raise comments again as an option for newspaper sites.

So I've pushed for our sites to have comments with full knowledge of what _might_ happen.

Things don't go wrong in every case, and its important to give it a try. We have some papers running anonymous comments without a problem. In fact, one of our larger papers doesn't want to use our registration system once its available, preferring its current system.

We have a registration-based comment system slated to launch on or about June 1. I'm not sure how quickly it will roll out to any specific GHS paper.

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