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Readers react to Web comment removal

Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009

Editor’s note: When the Empire removed reader comments from its Web site Friday, e-mails reacting to the move poured in. The following is a sample of opinions from online readers both for and against the removal of blogs.

For:

The comments associated with your articles are a regular part of my morning routine. I hope you bring them back. Criticisms about them being dominated by a few obnoxious voices are largely true (no doubt some would lump me in that group), but they do provide a valuable means of interaction for the community. And I visit your site far more frequently as a result.

I'm not opposed to paying a subscription fee for the privilege. That seems fair for the service you provide, and that would give you the opportunity to manage the out-of-line users.

I think the comments should remain anonymous. My employer and my wife's employer would not approve of my positions, and I would rarely post if I had to put my name on them.

Thanks for providing this service.

StillBob

•••

Are you people seriously dropping the comment section under each article in your online newspaper? It's a huge mistake! The amount of readers exposure to your advertisers will be greatly diminished. Not only will people spend less time at your site but will have zero incentive to return during the day. I know you're cutting costs but there's no call to slit your own throat.

Rkykaufman

•••

As an advertiser on page one of the Empire, I do not like the removal of the comment feature. You have now reduced the opportunities for my tile to be seen as now people will just read the article and move on with their day. When they could comment, people would come back and see what else others had to say about the articles.

I realize having comments means someone has to read them and make sure they are appropriate, but it was one of the things that made your online edition popular.

My next meeting with my ad representative will include a discussion of this reduced service.

Debbie W.

•••

It was greatly disappointing to find the comments section removed for the online paper today. I was most interested in seeing the reaction of the community to Gov. Sarah Palin's rejection of education funds in the stimulus package.

I understand that the Empire is a business and is not in a position to provide a community service. I, for one, would be happy to pay a monthly fee in order to post to the comment section. I would prefer, however, that posters be required to use their own name.

Stephanie A.

•••

Please bring back the blogging section. Blogging gives the reader an opportunity to correct a writer's understanding, add to it, tell the writer how wrong they are or to offer congratulations or condolences and sympathy (in the case of obituaries).

If that is not enough, blogging is synonymous with more and more good newspapers such as the Juneau Empire.

Jim

•••

I read the online version of the Juneau Empire nearly every day and was very disappointed to see the comments section removed this morning. I always look forward to reading the comments at the end of the articles.

Although many comments are off subject, blindly partisan or completely misinformed, some comments are very informative and strongly contribute to the article. The reader just has to be willing to pick through some mud to find the valuable comments - something I look forward to.

After the article about the first Snettisham avalanche, I wouldn't have imagined that the comment section could ever be removed. Commenters were making excellent recommendations to residents about conserving and to elected officials about potential actions to mitigate the fiscal effects of the avalanche. Many of the comments were adopted and acted on by the Juneau legislative delegation and Juneau Assembly members.

Ultimately, the comments section provides an excellent outlet for residents to comment how the news affects their life and on to offer their suggestions to mitigate or improve negative situations. It allows the whole community to have a voice.

Please don't permanently remove this forum.

Nate G.

•••

The removal of the comments section is probably the single biggest business blunder the Empire could possibly make. However, I'm sure the Anchorage Daily News will continue to host a robust conversation among its online readership regarding issues facing Alaska and that's where I'll be getting my news today.

Gary P.

•••

Please bring back the comment section. This was an avenue for people to discuss issues and voice opinions without fear of retribution from employers, supervisors, employees or peers. Like I suggested in the poll comments, place a link at the end of the story for people to go to a separate page for the comment section, that way people who don't like reading the comments don't have to see them. If these people still go into the comment section and still complain about the comments, then it's their own darn fault if they don't like what they read. I was always eager to open the Empire online to see what stories were in the news and what people had to comment on.

I feel that the comment section was a great forum for people to discuss issues. By the removal of the comment section, I think that your online readership will decrease. I know that I will not go to the Empire online as much because of the loss of the comment section.

K. P.

•••

I don't feel that it was necessary for the Empire to remove the comment section of the on line paper. We all like to now and then voice our opinion in a public, anonymous forum. Personally I use my real name.

People have the right to freedom of speech, and though we don't always like what someone else has to say, I believe the comment section has been a great forum for people from all over to express their opinion on any subject and be heard by others.

I would like for the comment section to be added back onto the online newspaper, I miss it already and it's only been one day. I enjoy reading what others think about the happenings in and outside of our small area and sometimes leaving my thoughts there for all to see as well.

Thank you for allowing me to voice my opinion on the removal of the comment section. I look forward to it returning.

Casey B.

•••

KINY has a web site that reports local news so much better and quickly than Juneau Empire. With JE simply regurgitating AP stories you are going to lose. Many people have been drawn to the online JE because of the ability to comment and be heard. Take that away and you will likely lose many of them.

Brian B.

•••

I really do NOT appreciate your removal of Reader Feedback from the Online Juneau Empire. It would seem that you don't care about your readers reactions to your Paper. Since you don't seem to be able to write your OWN Editorials, on topics of local concern, and you seem to publish just about every Left Wing Liberal Pontificator from every Liberal Rag, published in America, just where would your readers get any opposing views? Inquiring Minds want to know.

Maybe, the Empire is following in the Hearst School of Newspaper Publishing's footsteps, and will soon be losing it's readership..... Like the Seattle PI....

Bruce G.

•••

I miss the comments and the opportunity to comment. I think it engages your online readers. Seems like most online papers provide it and that it's pretty popular. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

Tim L.

•••

I definitely do not like the removal of comments. Its nice to hear what others think on issues that have to do with Juneau and the State.

Tim G.

•••

It's a shame you have removed the comment section from the online Empire. I will miss it, and perhaps not log in as often.

Cindy G.

•••

I only read this paper for the feed backs. Guess I won't need to read it any more.

Diane R.

•••

TERRIBLE! ill be spending a lot less time at your website now. From here on out I'll only read the classifieds.

Sean D.

•••

Don't agree with it. The comments were the main reason for reading the online version. I don't like the way some folks get ugly with their comments but its their opinion and their entitled to it. Too much discussion is stifled by those who get too easily offended.

Richard J.

Against:

Killing the comments forum is a move that takes guts and I appreciate your stand. All the arguments about free speech miss the point. There are limits to free speech. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre, and there are laws addressing slander and libel. Besides, it’s your paper, and you aren’t obliged to print every letter or post every comment. I think even supporters of the forums recognize that many comments now do not really contribute anything interesting to what could be a reasonable discussion between people with different opinions. I think they’d agree that people behave better when they are accountable, and that’s part of the problem.

I read well-managed discussion forums and they can be done right if you have the time and resources, and they can be a real asset to an online publication. You need a good policy defining what is appropriate (no name calling, no bigotry, no trolls, and stick to the point) and a staffer to devote a little time to monitoring the comments. I think once you’ve set a respectful tone, the whole level of discourse will rise. Perhaps you can try this now with the VoxBox, since it’s a little bit more manageable. Good Luck.

Riley W.

•••

I would like to thank you for removing the comment section from the Empire. I do not find the inane, mean-spirited, sarcastic comments from nameless people in any way helpful or an enhancement to the Empire.

On the other hand, the comment section did give me a greater appreciation for those who are willing express their views on a subject with a signed letter to the editor.

Kathryn G. 

•••

I traveled to Alaska for the first time in 1998 to go to Denali National Park.  I researched, planned and saved for the trip for several years.  Since then, my family and I visit Alaska about every other year.

Our purpose for reading the local Alaska newspapers is to learn about the state, its history, culture and local news.

We find the comment forums very disturbing and totally out of context with in keeping what most of us think of Alaska: a great state and The Last Frontier.

Doug and Carol

•••

Here’s a vote to say thank you for comment removal. Yes, I am a vigorous defender of free speech. But you’re certainly not squelching free speech by shaping the content of your own website. On the other hand, the exploitation and continuous borderline abuse of the blogs was hugely detrimental to our community. I’m all for dissent and disagreement, too. That’s part of what defines us. But the comment sections rarely had discussions of any substantive nature and mostly served to further divide and anger us. The Empire needs to remember that any newspaper — particularly a small town newspaper— plays a major role in shaping the life and spirit of the community.

I have long felt that the way the comments section was utilized hurt the spirit of Juneau because it created so much animosity. I know that for me personally, it often left me with such a bad taste in my mouth — more because its vehemence than because of opinions I disagreed with — that it soured me on Juneau in general.

All newspapers walk a tough line to serve their community and yet at the same time be leaders in the community. The Empire’s role is particularly tough, being as you must negotiate your relationship to the community in a place filled with people on both extremes of the ideological spectrum. But I strongly encourage you to do your best to rise above the fray and pressure from either side and stay committed to serving this community in a way that enhances us and moves us forward, not back. Keep your principles of real journalism and tell true story — no matter who it angers and the perceptions it draws — and of journalism that informs and builds a healthy community.

Alaska’s days of fighting on the Empire’s blogs should be behind us. I just read with interest every page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s final commemorative issue. What struck me was the way the portrayal of Seattle as a town that very much resembled any Alaska town for much of its history. It was a rough-and-tumble, resource-extraction driven community. But unlike most Alaska communities, Seattle always looked to the future. It fought its battles, sure, but always accepted that the times change. And it pushed to the be the best place it could be. That’s why Seattle, instead of any number of Northwest coastal cities, rose to be the largest. I know I’m on a tangent here. I’m not saying Juneau could be the next Seattle. I am saying that’s the kind of spirit and attitude a newspaper can help promote.

Daniel U.

•••

This is a good thing. Free speech needs some minimal level of responsibility. The blogs became mostly a place to hurl insults and hatred. The irresponsible comments far outweighed the responsible. The anonymous blogs brought out the worst in people and made Juneau look like a backwater filled with malcontents.

Richard W.

•••

Just wanted to say thank you for removing the comments sections (at least for today). It’s a great idea in theory, but it seems that everything Juneau has to say is negative and/or sarcastic.

People hold the Juneau Empire accountable for every word printed, but don’t stop to think for 10 seconds before they fly off and write something about someone in a comment.

Keep working hard and I’ll keep reading your news stories.

Aaron M.

•••

I want to congratulate your paper for having the common sense needed to shut down the vulgar, obscene, hate-filled comments. The Anchorage Daily News should take your step in doing the same. The people on those blog sites are mean, nasty and hateful remarks.

Cheryl B.




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