The Spokesman-Review announced in Sunday’s issue that online commenting is suspended today through New Year’s for the sake of the holiday season:
“The Spokesman-Review is closing online comments on news stories on our website starting Monday and lasting through Jan. 1. We’re doing this both as an experiment and to preserve the spirit of the season.”
Comments will still be allowed on blog posts and, presumably, Facebook and other social venues.
The change actually went into effect yesterday evening, when all existing comments also vanished. There’s no message or empty comment box — it’s just as though comments don’t and have never existed.
The announcement itself drew 149 comments before they were made invisible.
It’s no secret that online comments are rarely a paragon of polite society. It turns out the marketplace of ideas is filled with plenty of junk, and news organizations have generally moved away from allowing anonymous free-for-alls. The Spokesman has previously closed comments on sensitive stories, and lays out both forum standards (the rules) and community guidelines (the hope).
Earlier this year the magazine Popular Science ended online comments as "bad for science." The main problem, as they identify it, is that comments typically come from a passionate (or antagonistic) few, which then discourages other people who don't want to get pulled into some hostile exchange. And, at least in science, there actually are experts whose views are more valid than those of the masses:
“If you carry out those results to their logical end—commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded—you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the "off" switch.”
Here at the Inlander, we've been fortunate that few of our stories routinely attract valueless vitriol. And even our frequently antagonistic commenters typically express actual opinions (or at least try to be funny). But we do have a comment policy that we sometimes have to enforce, and you can read it here.