Today in my Politics & Media course the conversation took an unexpected turn. We were talking about accuracy across different media outlets and one group analyzed accuracy by looking through the comments section underneath each article. They concluded the comments really told nothing of the accuracy of the source, as comments are public and not closely regulated. My professor, who I must add is incredibly knowledgeable in this field, asked the class whether we read comments on articles and if we think they are important. Several members of the class said they do not, which I’ve got to admit is the same for myself, but I was surprised to hear how many people thought the comments were of little importance. Even my professor agreed that it would be a “waste of time,” to read them.
I was a column writer for The Maneater my first semester at MU and I’ve got to admit, there was nothing more frustrating than commentary based on little-reason, research and evidence. But I think its wrong to classify all comments under this quality. It’s not standard.
Instead, here is my view on comments. Feel free to leave your own (a bit ironic yes) on my blog.
— They are more useful for reporters than the media source’s readership. Comments may be refuting the basic argument or point-of-view of the article, but they provide a forum for users to have a voice. They may offer alternative perspectives, suggestions of sources or an accuracy check. Stories can develop based off of a debate on this forum. New questions could be asked. And, above all, it offers a layer of transparency in which the news source’s accuracy and fairness in good reporting is held liable.
Comments keep reporters on their toes. The U.S. unlike other countries, has a media industry that is predominantly self-regulated. I would argue that our strongest regulators are our readers, and if we deprive them of a forum to question, the content is left as is.
Now again, this is subject to comments that hope to accomplish something, rather than simply ripping work apart. Though I rarely post comments myself, as a reporter I have come to value what they can offer.