Monday, July 21, 2008

Concerning the usefulness of comments on newspaper websites

Every blog post deserves a picture, even if it is unrelated to the content of the post. So here is a picture of a billboard for Super Duper Weenie, in Fairfield.

Hey, remember that whole kerfuffle concerning the comments on the Courant's website, and how they're racist and stupid? Sure you remember - Hartford's dear Mayor, Eddie Perez, had a rally to decry the Courant's lax monitoring of the posts, and BBB's own Chillwill held a one-man counterprotest, which got him in the Courant, which took pains to point out that he is a high school graduate (it is worth remembering). (Oh, and later, Stan Simpson mentioned Chillwill in his column, suggesting that Will mounted his protest not out of civic concern but as a stooge of the Courant's corporate owner, New Mass Media, which employs Will.)

Well, I read a much more articulate argument for getting rid of comments on newspaper websites today at Their thesis is, "Newspapers have professional reporters who break news. Well-reported news is useful, while most user-generated content is crap. If people want to respond to what they read in the paper, they can sit down and write a letter to the editor, just like in the good old days, and leave the ignorant vitriol for the blogs." I like this thesis.

What say you, denizens of the interwebs? Putting aside Chillwill's excellent point that the mayor of a city with the second highest child poverty rate in the nation would do well not to spend time sweating the comments section of a failing newspaper, is there any real value to having a comments section on a paper's website at all?
And here is the rest of it.


chillwill said...

heeeey! i don't think Simpson thought i was a corporate stooge! i never read his column that way. And the Hartford High comment was less about my education cred and more about my beat cred! Who! Who! Who let the Owls loose?

i thought he agreed with me with his comment, "The gathering, led by Mayor Eddie Perez, was also a veiled attempt to deflect attention from rising concerns about crime in his city."

and the Courant owns NMM, not the other way around!

anyways... this relates to riding bicycles how?!?!?

El Presidente de China said...

It doesn't, of course, relate to bicycles in any way. It does relate to Hartford, though, and to discussions some of us had (maybe not on the blog, but in real life) about the whole comments thing. I just saw the post on Gawker and wanted to make sure all the Hartford heads who followed the Courant comments story saw it.

And I know you're no corporate stooge - I just liked the idea that anyone might even imply that, because it's so not you. I think he did kinda imply something by mentioning your employer.

And I know they mentioned Hartford High to establish your Hartford bona fides! But it's funnier to imagine that they just randomly mention that people graduated from high school. Well, it's funny to me, anyway.

Will, you know I loves ya. So let me say this to everyone who reads this post: Will is totally not a corporate stooge. He is totally repping Hartford (both the high school and the city) to the fullest (Go Owls!). This post has nothing to do with bikes but may be of interest to you if you live in the Beat. Sometimes I try to be funny and make people angry, but really I just have love for all people, including Stan Simpson, Eddie Perez, and, um, everyone else!

anonymous biatches!! said...

ha! el prez loves el eddie! (i bet the only person to love him NOT on his payroll!)

El Presidente de China said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
El Presidente de China said...

@ anonymous:

Nah, I'm agnostic on Eddie. I just wanted to put that Gawker post out there for people to ruminate on. Besides, I'm really just want to transcend politricks and focus on bicycles. And beer. And candy.

murbike said...

I think the cred given to Perez by the Courant is way too much. It makes him look like a real mayor, as opposed to a dutchbag dressed as a mayor.

I think Perez should focus on the problems of the city, rather than whine about what people say about the city. Fix the problems, and people will say good things about the city.

I think that intelligent (sp?) people ignore the crap on the Topix site connected to The Courant, and Perez complaining about it is a red herring designed to deflect attention from the real issue: Piss poor governance in our Capitol City.

I think Perez is a publicity grubbing douche bag, and should be voted out of office. What has he done for Hartford outside of Park Street?

Karma said...

Regardless of my opinions regarding the relevance of this post to the blog I do (at times) appreciate the comments section of the Courant website. While the majority of the discussion there is crap and throws me into tiffs of rage it simultaneously forces me to more deeply consider the issues and more carefully craft my arguments concerning them. Even backwards conservative Neanderthals like Jeff H. have a purpose if only in that they help us more progressive folks to tighten our ranks and strengthen our resolve to fight harder for what is just, right, and good... just saying.

Tom said...

I don't read comments on newspaper web pages...except if the article concerns bicycling.

I work in a library and can't help but notice the "regular computer users" who are here everyday. I suspect some are drunk. Some might be homeless. Some have nothing better to do than spend all day on the computer. I don't monitor what they are doing... but sometimes I notice they are commenting on newspaper articles. One gentleman (i use that term loosely) at times shows his angst by pounding on the keyboard so loud that we had to ask him to calm down or leave. Newspaper commentators appear to be would-be ranting profesionals.

chillwill said...


yeah, you said it brother!

Brendan said...

As someone who works in the same building as the Mayor, I'm going to not comment on his stance on the comments.

My stance on the comments is that they are stupid and don't promote civic discourse. For reasons I can't understand, they're 98% hateful. People hated on the Farmington Valley Trail's bridge beginning construction. People hated on Riverfest in Hartford. How you can take outrage with these things? At worst, they're neutral.

The only approach I like is the New York Times, because they allow comments on things that are the newspaper's blogs or the Times will pose a question. Things that merit a conversation or opinion. People answer thoughtfully and intelligently. They don't write "send them all back to Mexico" or "black people are animals" because statements like that have no place in civil society. Remember Tom Tancredo? He got no votes because he was a raving xenophobe. Why newspaper online comment sections are filled with the likes of him is beyond me.

Brendan said...

I mean, I am not going to comment.

Please pardon the split infinitive.