Monday, July 19, 2010

Reader Commentary on The Globe and Mail Website

Although I subscribe to The Globe and Mail, I find myself checking its website several times a day, both for updates and content that is only available online. Despite its shortcomings, it really is the newspaper of record for me.

That being said, I have been profoundly disappointed with the 'semi-moderation' of their reader comment boards. It seems that almost anything can be posted, and it is only by alerting the moderator to some truly objectionable comments that they may be removed.

While the first few comments on any given story may contain some insightful observations, it never takes very long for the reactionary crowd, almost all of whom hide behind pseudonyms, to post their vile, often racist and completely nonconstructive comments, leading to an inevitable spiral downward into name-calling, labelling, and ad hominems.

While I almost never bother to read the comments anymore, I did yesterday. A story had run about Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday; because he is a man I revere, I posted my own thoughts about him and what he represents, partly to offset the minority comments about him being a terrorist and communist, etc. One poster, whose comments were later removed, expressed the birthday wish that he “rot in hell.” I'm sure I wasn't the only one to alert the moderator about his offensiveness.

Why the Globe doesn't tighten up its comments policy is beyond me. To allow the drivel that these people post diminishes any chance of meaningful discussion and debases the paper itself. In my mind, a good start would be to require registration under one's actual name, with verification required before posting is allowed. After all, anonymous letters are not printed in the paper, and requiring actual identification of the poster would deter many of these cowardly hate-spewers.

To do nothing will only contribute to the spread of even more invective, thereby limiting the possibilities of civilized and constructive discourse.

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