“Mean, awful things”

September 24, 2008

Does the adage “less is more” apply to voicing one’s opinion anymore? A Minnesotan TV station argues this point in a report examining the sections of news sites allowing readers to post their own comments at the bottom of a story.

For those unfamiliar, these comment sections are like a rolling dialogue between readers, where people can offer their feedback, criticism or just vent about the story at hand, how it’s written, etc. Users are required to register a nickname to post, otherwise done in total anonymity , allowing one to say whatever they please.

That’s where it becomes problematic: depending on the subject matter, some people out there get so riled up that the vitriol flying off their spiteful, often racist, and usually insensitive tongues makes its way to the Web.

Most papers will have a Web administrator to moderate and/or delete such comments, but it all becomes one big, arbitrary judgment call after a while. Should they be moderated? Isn’t it free speech? If the story of a black man indicted on murder charges was reported, and racist remarks are posted, what would you do? Is there a degree, a barometer, of sorts, deeming what is offensive and what is not?

And how should we post? Are we obligated to hold our tongues and show some restraint in speaking our minds? Which choice is the open-minded one?

Like blogging, comments sections are still very new to the World Wide Web universe; their content, open season on anything and everything. The Minnesota station reports it just introduced the feature on its Web site; here at the VC Reporter, we have one, too. Stories we’ve broken, like local nudists trying to regain their rights to disrobe, gay marriages and the legality of medical marijuana have all generated some heated Web debate.

There are a lot of “mean, awful” things commented on, according to a quote from the story, found here:

http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=524959&catid=2

(And by the way, feel free to post your comments below.)

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