Friday, August 28, 2009

Unfiltered thoughts of the mean and uncouth

This week I’ve read more comments from readers at the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s web site than I have since the height of the baseball stadium controversy, three or four months ago. That was only the most recent time I’ve sworn off spending much time reading the comments under the newspaper articles and columns.

In the last couple of days I’ve read many of the stunningly mean-spirited reactions to the news of Robin Starr’s dead dog. I’ve also read some of the weird mix of rationalizations and accusations under articles about Michael Vick. And, I’ve read some of the grudge-driven rants under stories about the death of Sen. Edward M. “Teddy” Kennedy.

So, once again, I’m fed up with the reading of such slop and drivel. Hopefully, this time I’ll stay away longer.

It seems that newspaper publishers aren’t much different than eager beaver bloggers, when it comes to the practice of courting hits to drive up the numbers, or when it comes to using the inane but provocative comments of readers to fatten their content.

Still, why should we want to expose ourselves to the unfiltered thoughts of mean and uncouth people with which we would never associate? Isn't there some self-loathing in that sort of thing?

However, in spite of how much I might think it’s a waste of time to absorb the petty notions of soulless lowbrows, who only make it worse when they try to be funny, I know there are consumers who love to read the same. Are they now the RT-D’s target audience? Has it come to that?

So, now I’m wondering if interaction between periodicals published online and their readers is really taking us to a better place. It seems to be all the rage, because for the time being the consumers are playing along, but is it really the road to ruin?

As newspapers try to operate with smaller staffs, will letting the readers with the most to say provide trashy, bickering content that would never make it to a letter-to-the-editor printed page help or hurt in the long run?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I wish the RT-D would hide such comments on a separate page the way the Washington Post does. Instead, everyone who reads a news story on timesdispatch.com has to view the ignorance and stupidity of our fellow residents. It's not a very good web design.

To be honest, I don't mind reading these comments if they are from other papers. On timesdispatch.com, though, it is disheartening. The people that write such nonsense on there are probably living right around the corner.

paul_h said...

I don't find the comments much kinder in Style either. Our community blogs can be especially vicious.

Instantaneous reaction, non existent moderation and anonymity make for a poisonous combination. The loudest, most persistent voices dominate the conversatsion, if you can call it that. A lot of people, for good reason, don't want any part of it.

Bruce said...

Seems to be a mean wind blowing throughout the atmosphere these days. Maybe its the lack of a real "hate issue" to latch on to?

F.T. Rea said...

Paul H, actually, I think the comments I've seen lately on the legit periodicals pages are generally more extreme than those on the blogs I frequent.

Don't know why ... maybe it's just their circulation.

carolinabiker said...

I am amazed and more often stunned than amused at some of the comments people will post on-line concerning a newspaper article. In order to be "funny" (I assume that is the point of such posts)they can be some of the most hateful things I have ever read. Often concerned that the people who would write such things are walking among us all. Especially galling are comments after auto or motorcycle accidents that "Darwin" was the cause. Always hopeful that relatives of the dead do not come across such comments.
I make it a point of late to disable the comments, which can be done on most newspaper sites.