I was familiar with The Guardian’s report on harassment in its reader comments. Unfortunately I didn’t find it surprising or shocking.

Hate and the freedom to express hate is all too common.

So I only half listened to the On the Media interview with  Mary Hamilton, Executive Editor for Audience at The Guardian, about the bottom of the comments barrel. That is until Bob Garfield mentioned his column that used to run in The Guardian and the comments it attracted.

He felt like the commenters came to interact with each other rather than comment on his column. He got the sense he was hosting a community.

Hamilton agreed. And she cited the community that formed around the crossword puzzle. The commenters were regulars who got to know each other, held meet ups in real life and produced a theme song.

Hamilton’s example didn’t surprise me. Crosswords are that kind of interest that draws communities of interest. Smaller, focused groups can form into communities that make you feel good about this thing called the Internet.

Newspaper comments usually don’t.

In my theory of reader comments, newspaper audiences aren’t good places for community.

  • The audience is a large group.
  • The members have a diverse set of interests and viewpoint.
  • The nature of journalism is about broadcast not conversation.

But according to Garfield, his column became a site for community gathering. I have no reason to doubt him, so I will believe that is what happened. Even though it goes against my theory.

Probably because I don’t know how The Guardian comments are run. Who is in them? And I don’t know any more than what’s at the bottom of the barrel.

So maybe I can find out why I’m wrong. And maybe I’m a little bit right.





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How Ross Perot helped blaze the trail for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders

Clay Shirky does a multi-tweet analysis of how the evolution of media (from broadcasters to social media) has made it possible for outsiders to break the power of the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States. It’s great work but a parallel timeline could be created to explain how campaign financing laws have eroded […]

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February 18, 2016 0 comments Read the full post →

Why there is no iTunes for TV

I was listening to Walt Mossberg and Nilay Patel review Apple TV on the Ctrl-Walt-Delete podcast for The Verge. Three things that you need to know about this: Ctrl-Walt-Delete is one of the best titles ever. Yes they do discuss their reviews of the new Apple TV, but it does touch upon many issues about TV and media streaming. […]

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November 13, 2015 0 comments Read the full post →

Sorry Yogi, you can’t use that drone to find picnic baskets

While I have no desire to disturb the somewhat peaceful nature of Acadia National Park, I’m bummed I won’t be able to fly drones in any national park. Not exactly a crime against humanity. But the video and photography from a drone’s perspective could be stunning. I guess we will never know. Unless the national parks […]

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June 24, 2014 1 comment Read the full post →

The drones are falling! The drones are falling!

The Washington Post has a very impressive report that covers drone crashes and near misses with aircraft in the United States. It makes the FAA’s case very nicely that drones need to be tightly regulated and restricted. Which makes a certain bit of sense. But too much control and we’re going to lose a lot of […]

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June 24, 2014 0 comments Read the full post →

What else needs to be said?

The great Northern Jerk-Off pic.twitter.com/cg6Eg0ilVd — StuffJournalistsLike (@JournalistsLike) April 22, 2014

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April 22, 2014 0 comments Read the full post →

This actually makes journalism sound like fun

@mathewi The story of daily journalism: Set 'em up; knock 'em down; baffle beyond comprehension; then explain, as to a child. — Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) April 22, 2014

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April 22, 2014 0 comments Read the full post →

A troll by any other name…

So what makes you think that requiring real identities will clean up reader comments?

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March 1, 2014 0 comments Read the full post →

Why Amazon just lost my business

Greetings from Maine. This is to inform you that I will not be purchasing anything from Amazon.com. This is a direct result of your unwillingness to pay any advertising fees to associates in Maine. I understand that you need to make a political statement by refusing to send any money to Maine residents. To help […]

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September 27, 2013 0 comments Read the full post →

Three anthropologists walked into a Starbucks

I don’t need a degree in anthropology to tell you that the local Starbucks staff is very friendly and well trained in welcoming customers. But apparently it helped three anthropologists figure out that Starbucks was friendlier than local coffee shops in Boston. What’s really interesting is how Kevin Hartnett begins writing about it in Boston.com: […]

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September 15, 2013 0 comments Read the full post →