Oh boy this is a real media convergence! The Chicago Reader, a formerly-independent weekly now owned by Creative Loafing, Inc., published an article by Michael Miner in the April 17th, 2008 issues about out-of-control commenting on a Chicago Tribune story posted on the Tribune‘s website (here). The story, “Comeback Kid,” is about violinist Rachel Barton Pine who was severly injured by a Metra train in 1995 but has, you know, comback.
Miner says, “not long ago, readers’ reaction to such a story would have been limited to the letters page… but these days newspapers facilitate response that’s fast, furious, and virtually unmediated.” He’s talking about annonymous internet comments!
Annoymous commenters have been slinging insults about Barton Pine, and people are upset! There are 176 comments on the story at the time of posting, varying from “You’re a true inspiration, Rachel,” to one calling her and her husband “bitter, angry, not nice people.”
The Tribune could monitor the comments more, but as Bill Adee (who oversees the Tribune’s web pages) says, “the more oversight there is the more liable you are.” They don’t want to get sued! And as Miner points out, “lively reader forums create the [web] traffic that brings in advertising dollars.”
What is old media going to do about this new media development? I personally find comments to be a contributing factor to my enjoyment of an article or blog post. The Reader probably does too, as there are 22 comments on the story about comments. Online news has become a dialog between the writer and the audience, as well as between audience members themselves, and it shows no signs of moving back to a one-way model.
So, um, leave a COMMENT about what you think about COMMENTS!