RNZ turning off comments

Radio New Zealand is ending an 18 month experiment and plans to turn commenting off later this week, saying it’s too hard to moderate adequately.

Why we’re turning off comments

From later this week, we’re removing comments from RNZ.co.nz

When RNZ switched on comments last year, it was an experiment to see whether we could create a space where thoughtful and insightful comments would thrive.

And while the comments have been, for the most part, exactly that, there haven’t been many people involved in that conversation.

More and more, the conversations around RNZ’s journalism are happening elsewhere. We want to focus on making those spaces reflect that journalism and our charter.

They explain:

Comments on news websites are a fraught topic. For a long time they seemed like the way forward, a way to bring the audience into the stories, and let’s face it, comments are still what media analysts like to call “content”. In the social media, mobile-driven world comments are the ultimate in “engagement”.

But for as long as there has been comments, “don’t read the comments” has been a common refrain. If you’ve spent any time in discussion forums, you’ll be familiar with the pedantry and bad behaviour often found there.

As far back as 2012, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton said the promise of thoughtful discussion hadn’t been fulfilled.

“I don’t like going into the comments … For every two comments that are interesting – even if they’re critical, you want to engage with them – there will be eight that are off-topic or just toxic.”

And so, news websites began turning off comments sections. Popular Science, CNN, Mic.com, Reuters, Bloomberg and The Daily Beast have all turned off comments in the past couple of years.

“It is no longer a core service of news sites to provide forums for these conversations,” wrote The Week’s editor-in-chief Ben Frumin. “Instead, we provide the ideas, the fodder, the jumping off point, and readers take it to Facebook or Twitter or Reddit or any number of other places to continue the conversation.”

Stuff made it clear that they still allow commenting…

Patrick Crewdson Retweeted RNZ News
RNZ commenters will be welcome on @NZStuff. (Have I mentioned this?
https://www.fairfaxmediacareers.com/jobdetails?jobmc=22137TW

…with a link to a job description:

We are seeking two highly-motivated Comment Moderators to join our dynamic and growing team at Stuff, based in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

This job would suit a journalist who cares about fostering lively (but civil) debate; who believes that audience views should be solicited and celebrated, not disparaged; and who wants to help shape the conversation on the country’s biggest news website.

You will need to have a strong understanding of media law and ethics and be comfortable making judgment calls about community standards. You will be able to work quickly in a high-pressure environment without compromising accuracy.

You’ll be adept at spotting potential news stories or Stuff Nation submissions in the comments section and will help bring them to life.

StopPress discusses news site commenting and moderation: RNZ scraps its online comment section

Whelan says that for RNZ to serve the public, it needs to know what its audience is interested in.

“Increasingly though, that’s happening in places away from our own website. In the days before social media, the idea was that comments were a place where our audiences could engage with our journalism, add their thoughts and expertise to stories, and in the best possible way, deepen the discourse,” she says.

Fairfax group digital and visual editor Mark Stevens says comment sections are important, and that some of Fairfax’s audience is reading/watching content on its social platforms, but some aren’t.

“But they all deserve to be able to engage with us on that content. Commenting is a very important part of the relationship between the newsroom and our audience,” he says.

However, he admits moderating comments on Fairfax’s websites and its social media channels is difficult.

“It’s hard. It’s time consuming and the comment queue can be a pretty toxic place. But that’s not a reason to give up on it or ditch it for the majority of commenters who actually have something constructive to add to our stories,” he says.

It’s difficult enough moderating a small website with a modest number of comments.

We have seen here the extremes some go to to try and disrupt and shut up sites that they don’t like. Marc Spring, with the help of Cameron Slater and Dermot Nottingham, misused the Court to gag Your NZ and put me in jail because they didn’t couldn’t handle a bit of criticism and didn’t like me stopping their ongoing harassment here, contrary to Court limits (to those who complain about me continuing to critique Whale Oil one reason why I don’t roll over and shut up is to keep standing up to the bullshit bullies).

Is comment moderation endangering freedom of speech?

“Possibly, but equally we have a responsibility to ensure we aren’t breaking the law or being unnecessarily offensive in what we publish on our site,” he says. “That doesn’t translate to moderating out opinions we don’t agree with, but it does mean we have no tolerance for hate speech, or swearing, or defamatory remarks etc.”

He says in addition to ensuring comments met Fairfax’s terms and conditions, he is also an advocate of keeping the comment section civil. “We don’t nail that every single time, but we do try hard to keep the nastiness out of there, even if the trolls are managing to stay on the right side of the law.”

We’ve had a few pathetic trolls here too – see The Willis syndrome.  Why some people seem determined to disrupt sites, hijack discussions and abuse people is hard to comprehend but a small but dirty dishonest minority do things anonymously online they wouldn’t dare doing under their own identity in person.

It’s a tricky problem, and its trickiness is in perfect correlation with the rapid growth of publishers’ online audiences. It seems only time will tell if comment sections will buckle under the pressure of offensive comments and trolls, but with initiatives like The Coral Project aiming to solve the technology behind the problem, hopefully things will only get better and people can continue to comment freely, sans those bad eggs. 

One of the advantages of a smaller site is it is easier to build a community that gets the aims, limitations and responsibilities of free speech and jointly keeps the crap to a minimum.

As in real life there will always be people intent on causing others harm and challenges when they are determined to shit in other people’s nests but they lose if we keep succeeding.

Leave a comment

22 Comments

  1. Thanks Pete for keeping comments on, I’m less inclined to visit blogs that don’t. And sure there’s some rotten apples and sometimes a bit too much chat room familiarity (for me) but that’s part of community. There’s always some gems amongst it all that make it worth the read.

    Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  12th July 2016

    I have to say the pathetic level of most especially Stuff but also Herald comments is a big turn off for me. On the other hand the quality of the actual opinion columns there is little better so they probably attract what they deserve. NBR has a much better average level but of course is pay-walled which filters a lot of bottom-feeders.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  12th July 2016

      All I can say Al is,going by your comments. you seem to have evolved into an elitist,mean spirited,opiniated prat ..Whatever happened to …values…or is that the natural progression,=young,idealistic,liberal who with age and accumulation of assets morphs into a narrow minded conservative who despises those not a carbon copy of his own lifestyle and beliefs.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  12th July 2016

        I know that’s all you can say, Blazer.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  12th July 2016

          theres alot more I could say Al….you’ve been talking to…Pukeko’s too long!

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  12th July 2016

            Now you’ve got me mixed up with Gezza. At least his pukeko know which side their bread is buttered, unlike socialists who always despise the hand that feeds them.

            Reply
    • Gezza

       /  12th July 2016

      (nick some)

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  12th July 2016

        No, that’s naughty of me. Summarise some – you’re good at that.)

        Reply
  3. pickled possum

     /  12th July 2016

    I for one love the comments from every body, makes for some hilarity in my household.

    When I yell out ‘listen to what that hoot Nelly is sayin” They all stop and then have a laugh, most times that is, and when she is being ‘something’ to miss kitty kat kitten lol,
    now those pics of the different sides of MKKK are, I have to say … side aching funni.

    or if I am Grumbling and sayin naughty words!
    some one will say, “Is that ………… being a dickster again?”
    or “awww how lovely,” says I and the mother says, “Is that our Gezza, talking about his Birds again?”
    Or when I say in a loud voice “Oh FFS” … they know exactly Who I am talkin about!

    It’s all about creating an online community, one that we/I feel safe to share in,
    that is Nice to one another and Caring and Sharing,
    Ok … bit OTT … but you kinda know what I mean eh?

    Just chewing the political fat over with people who, I probably wouldn’t want to go to dinner and the movies with 🙂 and then get into a political converse with.
    I have learnt many things in this forum and many things I didn’t want to learn. 🙂

    Thanks Pete any way for the opportunity to have a say with out having a *jaw breaker on, to give us all the venue to have a say with Raw honesty and mature self moderation … sometimes!
    Speaking of … where is Ben … miss you bro.

    *jaw breaker … the bit in the bridle, that controls an out of control horse … ‘saw the bit’
    is a common saying in my household.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  12th July 2016

      Yes, my wife often says “What are you laughing at? Are you stirring again?” And we have a good chuckle at Nelly’s outrageous contributions.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  12th July 2016

        I quite like the way Kitty stirs up the misspellers & bad grammarers too.

        Reply
      • Klik Bate

         /  12th July 2016

        I’m not sure you should be encouraging Nelly to be honest – you never know WHERE it might lead XD

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  12th July 2016

          Dunno, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea where Nelly is likely to go.

          Reply
    • Gezza

       /  12th July 2016

      I’ve got a few faults. Someone told me I moralise too much o_O ?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  12th July 2016

        Those aren’t faults, Gezza. They are character traits. Wear them with pride. And develop selective hearing.

        Reply
      • pickled possum

         /  12th July 2016

        Gezza moralise away old chap, if this meaning is the real meaning of moralise …

        Moralise = reform the character and conduct of.
        “he endeavoured to moralize an immoral society” 😉
        Keep up the good work and of course I just love, Really I do! MKKK fixing up bad granma and speling mistakes … some of us need a gentle reminder from time to time lol.

        Reply
  4. Yep Gezza, You’ll notice I never moralise so go right ahead and moralise away on my behalf too … I need someone to do it for me …

    The Hilarity Prize for today doesn’t go to Nelly Smickers, as is so often the case, it goes to Alan for claiming to have a positive attitude … Oh my goodness how I laughed!!!!!!

    YourNZ has intelligence and fun, mostly, and these are two key ingredients of lasting happiness, along with rinsing the gunk off your dishes before you wash them …

    Reply

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