For the past two years, Patrick Pexton, has been the ombudsman for the Washington Post. As the ombudsman, Sexton’s job was to represent the readers who have concerns and complaints. Whether they were regarding accuracy, ethics, or fairness, Pexton was the person in charge of receiving and resolving these issues. Last week, Pexton’s two-year term came to an end and he wrote a farewell post. Pexton wrote about the issues he tried to change during his tenure. One of these issues happened to deal with the Post’s commenting system.
I abhor reading the comments on the Washington Post.
If I have to read an article on the post and it has anything to do with the President or Flotus, or even crime in Prince Georges County, I make it a point to skip the comment section. If you’ve ever read the comments left on the Post, you’ve no doubted noticed the blatant racism that stems from them. Of course the people leaving the comment are anonymous.
I occasionally abhor reading comments on Clutch.
If you’ve read the comments on Clutch, you’ve no doubt noticed sexist, homophobic, self-hating, misogynistic and degrading comments occasionally. I’ve talked to people who’ve said they stopped reading the Post because of the vitriol left in the comment section, and I’ve also had people mention to me how off-putting the comments are on Clutch. I’m sure plenty of people are about to bang on the keyboard to type out, “if they don’t like it, then don’t read it”. Yeah, I guess if it was that easy, people would also change the channel and watch a different show on tv instead of petitioning to get it off the air too.
Keyboard gangsters is what I refer to people who feel the need to troll the comment section of any online publication and use it to demoralize others. When I look in the “trash” can of the comments that are deleted, half the time I shake my head. Anonymity gives people balls, I get that, but I guess it also takes away commonsense and reasoning.
Freedom of speech? Yeah, that’s a privilege we all have. Freedom to be jerks, also seems to go along with it.
There’s no sure-fire way to monitor a site’s comments 24/7, just as there’s no way to check the anonymous commenters at the gate, unless anonymity is taken away completely.
The Miami Herald and plenty of other sites are doing just that.
They’ve taken away the ability for people to leave anonymous comments, by requiring people to log in via one of their personal social networking accounts, such as Facebook or Twitter. By stripping away the anonymity, people are less likely to leave their ignorance in the comment section. Just imagine Billy Bob leaving a racist comment with his personal Facebook page, along with profile photo, attached to it. Then his coworker, LaKeisha Jones, happens to notice Billy Bob in the comment section talking about, “N word this..N word that”. That won’t make for nice small talk in the elevator.
I would hope people don’t handle disagreements offline they way they do online. Can you imagine someone disagreeing with you in person and saying, “you’re just another angry black bitch”? Oh yeah, that’s been found in the trash can several times. Or how about, “Why don’t you take your ass back to Africa?”
The comment section is such an interesting, yet integral part of an online publication and quite possibly a microcosm of society, but also downright ruthless at times.
Do you read the comment sections of websites and occasionally shake your head?