WASHINGTON POST SHUTS DOWN BLOG COMMENTS SECTION

Cites Waves of Profanity and Hate Speech

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Now that society has evolved from mass media to micro media and all the way into participatory media, the test before us is whether consumers can handle their new-found voices. The Washington Post for one has decided the answer for now is 'no,' shutting down reader comments on one of its blogs yesterday afternoon after a deluge of personal attacks, profanity and hate speech -- and provoking new attacks in the process.
“What we’re not willing to do is allow the comments area to turn into a place where it’s OK to unleash vicious, name-calling attacks on anyone, whether they are Post reporters, public figures or other commentators,” wrote Jim Brady, executive editor, Washingtonpost.com.

'A shame'
“It’s a shame that it’s come to this,” wrote Jim Brady, executive editor, Washingtonpost.com. “Transparency and reasoned debate are crucial parts of Web culture, and it’s a disappointment to us that we have not been able to maintain a civil conversation, especially about issues that people feel strongly (and differently) about.”

Like so much this month, the development goes back to Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges on Jan. 3. But the trigger was an explosion of vicious personal attacks against Deborah Howell, The Post ombudsman, attacking her Jan. 15 column for saying that Mr. Abramoff had made "substantial campaign contributions to both major parties."

Critiques and rants
Hundreds of critiques and rants later, The Post said it found itself overloaded with the task of removing and blocking the most onerous responses. (One anonymous blogger did a screengrab of some of the comments that the Post did allow through before they all were taken down, and currently has them posted them at http://wapolies.blogspot.com).

Mr. Brady wrote that the decision to indefinitely suspend reader comments was not about avoiding criticism, pointing out that the Web site frequently links to bloggers’ arguments with The Post’s own articles. “What we’re not willing to do is allow the comments area to turn into a place where it’s OK to unleash vicious, name-calling attacks on anyone, whether they are Post reporters, public figures or other commentators,” he wrote.

At least one major blogger was -- let's be charitable -- not impressed. Almost immediately, the progressive Web site Daily Kos posted an item headlined, “Readers Tell Ombudsman To Do Her Job, Washington Post Responds By Shutting Down Blog Comments.”

But this is not the first time open-source editorial has cracked apart mid-flight. The Los Angeles Times tried last summer to move its editorial pages into the 21st century by posting online Wikitorials, which were based on the Wikipedia Web site and allowed readers to rewrite and comment on the editorials themselves.

Some readers quickly obliged with pornographic images; editors squashed the experiment after just two days.

In this article:
Most Popular