Ventura Star shuts down comments
UPDATE: As of Monday 5/23, the paper expects to reopen comments but without the ability to post anonymously. See fresher post above.
It's disappointing to see the Ventura County Star have to shut down the comments on its stories. As the paper explains, the number of comments with profanity, personal attacks and pornographic comments spiraled out of control. A Los Angeles Times story further explains that much of the commentary on some threads was racially oriented.
Howard Owens, the Star's news media director, was just on a panel at the American Copy Editors Society convention with me and Nicole Stockdale of A Capital Idea. As you might imagine, he took some heat for having unedited blogs on the site (the blogs are still there, but the idea of any unedited content is the point here). His response, among other things, was that those were real voices, and sometimes those voices don't read like the King's English.
From my understanding of such things -- which is just enough to be dangerous -- there can be some technical ways to mitigate this comment problem to where it might be possible to reopen it without requiring constant monitoring.
But I'm also afraid what has happened will cause cause some positions to harden further, just at the time the industry must think of new ways to accommodate public input. I hope not.