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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Cleveland.com Ends Reader Comments on Stories

Posted By on Tue, Feb 25, 2020 at 9:54 AM

click to enlarge Screengrab of comment section of a Tamir Rice story, via TNR
  • Screengrab of comment section of a Tamir Rice story, via TNR

As of Thursday, Cleveland.com will no longer accept reader comments on stories.

Citing the generally vile and mean-spirited nature of the comment sections, as well as the fact that a small percentage of readers were responsible for the vast majority of comments, Cleveland.com editor Chris Quinn wrote today of the decision:



"In cleveland.com’s 20-plus year history, comments have been our biggest flashpoint. Screening comments for personal attacks, profanity or off-topic remarks has become an increasing drain on newsroom resources. Despite the invested time, money and effort, we have failed to dampen pervasive meanness. It’s such a shame. We genuinely wanted the platform to work, because people have so few places to meet others with different viewpoints who want to discuss the topics we cover."

Cleveland.com had previously closed commenting on individual crime and court stories, venues where comments inevitably devolved into digital distillations of racism, and instead offered a single daily comment section for all crime and court stories in an effort to stem the tide.

Rare is the comment section that lives up to the Socratic ideals of engagement and debate media organizations had once envisioned. Almost exclusively, they are instead cesspools of hate, harassment, trolling, racism and bigotry. Moderating those online petri dishes is imperfect, time-consuming and expensive. Even with automated methods, which pull or quarantine comments based on keywords, there still exists a need for humans to mine through the shit to flag vile comments that make it through the safety net. And even with those explicitly hateful submissions excised, the general hateful spirit remains, driven in large part by that small minority responsible for the vast majority of comments.

"We have more than 7.5 million devices connecting to our site in an average month, but just over 4,000 left a comment," Quinn wrote today. "That works out to a tiny bit more than one tenth of one half of one percent. Across all 11 Advance Local websites — which serve 50 million visitors in an average month — just 2,340 people produce more than half of the comments."

The move, which is sure to be met with universal applause in the newsroom at 1801 Superior Ave. and others around the country, is one that sister outlets owned by Advance Publications have either already made or will in the future.

"Not hosting a place where a tiny number of people spew caustic nonsense is our latest step to make for a better Greater Cleveland community," Quinn wrote.

There are currently well north of 800 comments on the piece. Two illustrative examples [sic, of course]:

I actually come here to read the comments as many of the poster have interesting information and points of view. You have the "mute" button to take care of trolls. And many of the articles only give information of things that we fans already know - nothing new. You're taking away a vital part of this site because of personal over-sensiblity and not taking into account what the readers think. Did you take a poll to see what your readers want? Or is this some sort of authoritarian move to control criticism !!! You might want to look in the mirror before imposing your personal interpretation on those that contribute to the "success" of this site.
Check back in a month and tell us how many hits you've lost. I for one, will now look at other possibilities where I can share views with fellow fans.
And:

i find it quite amusing the reasons for this decision. the double standard is so apparent. for instance, there have been many troy smith stories about rappers. included in the stories are links to play the rap music. of course anyone could click on those rap links to hear the hateful abusive lyrics complete with the n word. and that was ok yet you censor many times opposing views and information that goes against the agenda. no rules were broken other than the truth triggered some buttercup. this is why people aren't trusting the main stream media

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