Reigning Snark Site Gawker Laments Reader SnarkI had to shake my head and wait for my eyes to come back to rest so I could be sure this was the same site. Yup, it was Gawker - with a comment piece on why newspapers should not allow reader comments. The view was so contempuous of letting the hoi polloi have a say that I was surprised, because Gawker is often one of the snidest and most condescending of sites when it comes to opinions of what others do, say, and write.
The line of argument, I felt, was poorly thought through, assumption filled, and lacking perception, understanding, and even a factual grasp on history. Referring to David Carr's piece in the New York Times Magazine about how bad he used to be and how he had changed brought out "Opening a deeply personal article up to the peanut gallery does these writers a great disservice—and yes, I include Emily Gould here, whose NYT Mag article was similarly pilloried in the comments section.
"The "offensive" comments listed were "If he wasn't a reporter for the New York Times, would we be reading this?" and "Monetizing your shameful past is disgusting. Haven't you harmed your loved ones enough for one lifetime?" and "Who cares. grow some guts. we all have problems. most of us don't blame drugs or alcohol... you want a medal for doing your job and being a father?" Sorry, but all three are perfectly respectible views, and far less harsh than things I've seen in Gawker. If a writer decides to open up his or her personal life, then that person should be smart enough, and thick-skinned enough, to know what will happen.
Certainly the single line of type "w-h-o-r-e" referring to another story is ridiculous. But to include that as if it is on the same level as the other comments is absurd.
You could argue that newspapers should rigorously vet and moderate their comments, or at least require them to use their full names. I'd argue that this is a silly misuse of their time; I'm not suggesting that newspapers should actively patrol their comments, like this and some other websites do. (We're a blog; comments are in our blood.) I'm suggesting they get rid of them altogether. (This doesn't include the blog sections of various papers, which the NYT and Washington Post are stuffed full of.)The author, signed as Sheila, suggests that newspapers "have more important things to do" than to police comments or even spend time with them. Why? Are newspapers supposed to be sacrosanct when it comes to criticism? At least with comment sections, there is a way for someone to voice an opinion when the newspaper decides that it isn't important or interesting enough to publish a letter to the editor - even if the comment is informed and makes a point important for the newspaper to hear.
Ah, but I forgot, all comments in all newspapers are the same: shallow and not of the quality of real writers like Sheila. Perhaps she might look at some of the blogs at the Guardian's site; the discussion in the theatre section, for one, shows an erudition and level of experience that is laudable.
As for the postscript:
Also, nobody wants to hear the tired old "free speech" argument as a defense of comments. We've had free speech in this country for well over two hundred years, long before it was ever an option to comment on newspaper websites and blogs.what hogwash. She means that she doesn't want to hear about free speech because, after all, that is for the intellectuals, not the common folk. Unfortunately, Sheila is apparently unfamiliar with the quality and thrust of newspapers at the time of the founding fathers, and how they would regularly attack politicians, public figures, and each other on a regular basis. There was no need for a comments section, because the entire newspapers were just that. But it's far more convenient to ignore fact when it gets in the way of opinion.