The Internet has given any person with a decent connection the ability to make his/her voice heard. It was supposed to -- and I think certainly has -- enhanced dialogue surrounding news and other issues. It's added new perspectives from people who aren't just like us.
It's also, of course, given a megaphone to people who have nothing to say, but say it anyway and this week the Mankato Free Press is the latest news Web site to say "enough."
"In particular, I was hopeful we would have a civil discourse on matters where we disagreed," publisher Jim Santori said in a story on the newspaper's Web site. "Unfortunately, allowing anonymous posts on the forum opened up the opportunity for people to attack others with impunity. It got so bad that, in some cases, I found people fearful to engage in dialogue because of the actions of others."
Last October, MPR's Tim Post tackled the issue in a story about reader comments at the St. Cloud Times and other papers.
Mainstream publishers have wondered for years whether reader comments associated with news stories put a newspaper's credibility -- one of the few assets that still has value -- at risk.
(h/t: Bob at alamn)
I've thought for a while now that the comments threads on the Star Tribune are possibly the worst thing on the Internet. Even worse than comments on YouTube, and that's saying something. I think it was a nice idea, but I really don't think it's working and it does degrade the level of discourse (which at least once generally based on research and objective reporting) to a hateful exchange of talking points. Ick.
I like how MPR does it, really. A few blogs with comments, and an entirely separate area to get together and talk about the events of the day.