A modest proposal regarding online comments
I understand the desire for media outlets like newspapers, broadcast operations, blogs and community news sites to allow for public comments on their respective websites. They want to draw traffic to their sites and engage the public.
Too often, however, Internet anonymity, personal agendas and threadjacking have lowered the level of discourse to trolling and name calling. My personal advice is: if you don’t have anything meaningful to contribute, then keep it to yourself.
I applaud the sites that have gone to requiring Facebook accounts (less anonymity) and keeping comments on a separate page, so casual readers aren’t exposed to them.
I don’t think this goes far enough, however. So here’s my proposal regarding reader comments: “pay to post.”
If the readers feel strongly enough, they can use PayPal or some other mechanism to pay for the posts to be displayed. The media outlet can put up whatever disclaimer they want while still collecting additional revenue.
For the Chicken Littles who would claim this is unreasonable and unfair, they can still write letters to the editor or contact the news director. The last time I checked, those activities are still free and available for First Amendment expression.
So how about it, media outlets? You get extra revenue and your strongly opinionated readers can figuratively put their money where their mouths are.
That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll read more reader comments, but I’ll certainly know they were bought and paid for just like brand or political advertising.