I spent a lot of time this summer thinking through issues with online publishing. I was working for a weekly newspaper (the Idaho Mountain Express) out in Sun Valley, Idaho and when they place content on their website they allow for commenting.

Personally I had an issue (and still do) with the idea of comments for news articles. To me, news isn’t meant to be a conversation! I can understand the addition of comments to editorials or opinion pieces, but when I look around at many large newspapers, as well as the small ones in similar communities (ski resorts and other tourist market towns) it seems to have become the industry standard to allow commenting.

Blogs are a conversational medium, and I think that it allows a very unique interaction for the written word. This is why I think blogs have and need a comment space. Whether our class blog or Jeff’s blog it is used as a place to formulate ideas (sort of an interactive rough draft space), or a place to vent or rant or spread rumors about a certain subject (like a personal blog or an apple rumor blog etc) it seems to be for the most part situated in a conversational space. Where information is shared with the intent of starting a conversation. Heck, whenever I write a blog post (surprisingly even without Jeff threatening failure it does sometimes happen… rarely) I am always sad when I dont get comments and responses.

The reasoning for the commenting at the Express was to compete. It was a direct response to a new news aggregate that was started in the same town called SunValleyOnline. This new news aggregate (a site that pulls news from other sources, not a place with paid reporters etc) popped up and there was a lot of initial draw to the site which allowed commenting on the stories they displayed. To push back the Express turned on commenting on their stories, and for the most part, the readership of SVOnline seemed to drop.

The biggest concern however comes back to the idea of news. News, as I understand it, is meant to be an unbiased presentation of facts. I understand the business decision to allow commenting, since the public seemed to express a demand for it, but it still bugs me, since now the newspaper is responsible to manage and maintain the comments, when these comments only seem to allow reader opinion and bias to enter the discussion on the stories.

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?