Goodbye Toronto Star Comment Section

Yesterday, the Toronto Star announced that it would close its on-site comment section as the publication would instead be “promoting and showcasing the comments our readers share across social media and in their letters and emails to our editors..”  The move is not the first of its kind, the Toronto Sun did it because the comments on its site had become too malicious, personal & racists, but the Star didn’t really tell us why they decided to follow this trend. 

That with the cryptic “promoting and showcasing comments” line has lead to speculation & yes even some conspiracy theories! 

If you take it at face value, the Star’s reason could be the same as The Sun’s, as was hinted at in a Globe and Mail article,  or it could be a result of  resourcing “challenges” (read: budgets) in keeping up with the moderation of Star’s site,  or it could be to avoid possible legal problems (read: getting sued over a comment). It also could be a move to improve the quality of the commentary, or because the Star’s readers are shifting to using social media to comment on news articles & the Star is following its users, or this could be all be part of an elaborate plan by the Life-wing media to suppress dissenting opinions & to make the world think every Canadian loves Justin Trudeau. 

That last one is a theory I found in the Globe & Mail’s comment section.  

Reading the Comment Section

As a person who reads the comment section of all online media (I like to live on the dark side of the Internet) I have found The Star’s on-site comments to be at best a dull & repetitive anti-Liberal tirade, & at worst a hub of every -ism know to man written without a comma.  

Recently reading a Toronto Star article usually went like this for me:

The sanity seemed to have left the comment section of the Star completely.  I actually liked to read opposing viewpoints, because I may learn something, but it is hard to learn anything from a person named “Xorg_69” who calls all muslims terrorists on a story about a cat birthday party.

About six months ago, I started to read the comments on Star’s articles within Facebook.  The experience was much better.  There was interesting conversation & people who had opposing view points did not seem insane & very angry.  But, I still have moments when I came out of the experience completely disgusted by Canadians.  This usually occurs after reading an article about a ISIS, immigration or refugees.  Jesus Christ people, some of you lack empathy & compassion.

Promotion and Showcasing

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I buy the argument that switching to social media based commentary will help the Star improve its readership experience.  Star’s readers are already doing this & it make sense for the publication to just go with the changing tides. But, I haven’t bough off on this whole “promoting and showcasing” comments thing just yet.

I have many questions.

How will this work exactly? What will the criteria be for choosing which comments get promoted & showcased?  Will it be up to the writer of the piece? The editors? Some lowly intern? Or they going to choose the comments with the most likes and re-tweets? 

While, reading the comments on news articles has taught me that not everyone’s opinions matter (it doesn’t, you are welcome to have it but no one else has to care about it), it has also exposed me to different view points.  And while I may not like some of these  view point or agree with them, I realize we are in the middle of a huge cultural & societal shift & fear will drive people to cling to old beliefs.  I think it is important to be informed of these views & to try to listen to people that hold them.  As long as they aren’t knee-deep in -ism’s thought, I give every -ism about 5 seconds before I decided to judge the typer as a lost cause.

I am bothered by the Star’s “promotion & showcasing” angel because I don’t think it is the place of the Star to promote or showcase reader comments.  You can showcase comments, but promoting them … that has the potential to lead to corruption.   Just imagine all of the political parties, special interest groups, & corporations that will be willing to pay to “promote” readers social media comments about a story they have a vested interest in?

I guess those Internet conspiracy theorists aren’t that far off after all, are they?  KIDDING!  Those guys are crazy!  I’m just going to wait & see what the Star does with this.

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