If you ever want to see the worst people in the world, just scroll down to the bottom of stories on CNN.com or Yahoo News. No matter what the subject of the article, the anonymous trolls will be there, spewing hate, racism, right- and left-wing political crazy talk, and the worst grammar and spelling on the Internet.
I was reading a story on CNN.com yesterday, in fact, about a 93-year-old WWII veteran who recreated his parachute jump in Normandy. A heartwarming, wonderful story, it only took a few comments before the hatred and trolling to begin. And it never ended; some 630 comments later, it's still so very ugly and unnecessary.
Of course, we’ve had comments on OnMilwaukee.com since about 2001; we call them "Talkbacks," and for some reason, our readers – minus a few – seem to be far more civil than the readers of the newspaper down the street at JSOnline. Even though we moderate our comments, we let most of the silly stuff slide. For the 87,439 posted, we’ve only declined 2,414 comments, mostly because they are libelous, profane, repetitive or wildly off topic.
Some publications have buried their readers’ comments, moving them off the page of the content. I get that – they don’t want the nonsense to tarnish otherwise good journalism; however, hiding the comments slightly is sort of a half-measure. I say either keep them or get rid of them.
Then, of course, there are the Facebook comments. Some of us publishers hoped that by using its system, which at least somewhat forces people to use their real identities, it would add a sense of civility to the discussion. We, for example, include FB comments alongside our internal system.
The result, unfortunately, has been similarly terrible stuff – and we lose the opportunity to really moderate those comments. And the business reality is that Facebook has deeply cut into our comment numbers. Before Zuck and Twitter, popular stories would get upwards of 100 comments; now those comments are being posted directly on Facebook and other social media tools. Their traffic comes from our traffic – but that ship has already sailed, and there’s no use complaining about it now.
Which makes me wonder if readers comments are doing more harm than good in 2014. Years ago, we said that they helped make media a conversation, not just a sermon. But if the vast majority are just furious, frothing whack jobs and mouth breathers, pounding on their keyboards, picking fights and throwing bombs, how is that helping?
Unfortunately, it may not really matter, since the holy grail is still the almighty page impression. Even though here, we’ve moved past that metric in some respects, that’s basically how all of us free, advertiser-supported Web sites make the lion's share of our revenue. Even if we hate the comments and the commenters, they generate a ton of free and easy traffic. Getting rid of them only hurts ourselves, even if it makes the reader experience more pleasant.
So, for us, for now, I guess we’ll keep them, because the OnMilwaukee.com readers aren’t yet like the other commenters I read on the Internet. Hopefully they never will be. But if they start trending in that direction, we might get have to rid of comments all together. Or think of something else.
Irony aside in this question, what do you think of readers comments? Should they stay or should they go?
The fact that blurando's comment was posted proves that almost everything is approved on this site. It is either the dumbest or most racist comment that I have seen in a while. Just based on that; I say stop the comments.
I also think many of these offensive comments are created and posted by the author him/herself to get people talking and to get them all worked up. And of course...some people are just DB's and like to see their comments posted and read.
While in agreement with your article, I would not stop comments. Racism is the driving, powerful force behind every decision made whether corporate, government, political or personal. Comments bring that fact into the light and that exposure is neccesary if there will ever be any hope of curing the sickness of racism.
4 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published July 29, 2015
If you've never heard of floating and sensory deprivation tanks, let us answer this question for you: it's not a form of torture. Rather, some consider it the ultimate form of relaxation, injury recovery and meditation, and it's coming to Milwaukee very soon.
Published July 28, 2015
When you've visited the same place well over 20 times, sometimes you have to look at it a different way. Whether that means taking a bird's eye view from the treetops, or a fisheye perspective from just a atop the water, Wisconsin's crowing jewel that is Door County still looks spectacular from any angle. Even if it's one you have bend a little to see just right.
Published July 15, 2015
Though Liz Lincoln, who writes under the nom de plume of Eliza Madison, just published her first erotic novella, the Milwaukee writer isn't new to penning books about romance. "I've been writing romance forever, really," says Lincoln, who debuted "Fast, Fresh & Hot" this summer on Amazon. " I wrote romance stories when I was in middle school."
Published July 12, 2015
A decade ago, I took a spin around the Milwaukee Mile in a special two-seat IndyCar. I did it again this morning, and it was even better.
Published July 8, 2015
While I only passively care about what happens on the court, I nonetheless passionately, urgently and desperately request Milwaukee and Wisconsin to get its act together and build the Bucks a new arena before it's too late. Just like I preached in the mid '90s when the Brewers were semi-genuinely eying Charlotte as their new home, I'll say it again: Build it now.
Published July 3, 2015
It's a long-standing tradition at Summerfest - and at plenty of other festivals - to use radio station DJs to introduce a headlining band. It may seem like a five-minute formality, but as usual, there's a back story to most of what the public sees while standing on the Summerfest bleachers.
Published June 29, 2015
It hasn't been a good month for the Stars and Bars. Only 150 years after it should've disappeared for good, national online and brick and mortar retailers have yanked the Confederate battle flag from their shelves and their sites. In other words, you will no longer find Confederate beach towels, belt buckles or even the General Lee (I'm bummed about that, actually) at Wal-Mart, Amazon, Etsy, eBay or many other stores around America. Fortunately, you won't find them at Summerfest, either, in the state that lost 12,216 men to the Civil War.
Published June 25, 2015
To me, the Kings Of Leon were supposed to save rock music. When I saw them for a second time at Summerfest in 2006, this time at the Miller Lite Oasis, something felt wrong. KOL seemed slow. Plaintive. Quiet? Turns out that was the direction this band would head in, and it's what made them extremely popular. But I came into tonight's show with an open mind and was rewarded with old Kings, and even lulled a little with new Leon.
Published June 22, 2015
"Summertime" is a great song - so great that it's been covered 25,000 times since George Gershwin wrote it in 1934. One of the more enchanting - and special - versions of the jazz standard has just dropped from Nineteen Thirteen, an enigma of a Milwaukee band. Featuring Victor DeLorenzo on percussion and Janet Schiff on cello as its two permanent members, you almost have to see this group to believe it.
Published June 18, 2015
Even though Summerfest gets passed over by lots of national media - at some point, let's put the onus on getting the word out better, OK? - there's no doubt that this gigantic musical festival is Milwaukee's crowning annual achievement. Here are the annual picks from OnMilwaukee.com Publisher Andy Tarnoff.