Letter: Letters, not online comments, foster good discussion

By Gus Bode

Dear Editor:

I’m a former reporter who still keeps up with J-news and I came across the Daily Egyptian editorial axing reader comments through the magic of the Internet.

It made me smile. It made me smile a lot.


I’m very troubled by the general direction of American journalism, for a lot of reasons. Reader comments are my smallest gripe, but they are certainly a gripe. We initiated them at my former paper in Yuma, Ariz., where I was the city/county government report for a small paper called the The Sun for a couple years.’ While there were occasionally interesting conversations or contributions of new information from people directly involved, they were by far the minority. The vast majority of comments were random racist and partisan political feces throwing. What does Obama and/or illegal immigration have to do with the weekly events calendar listing? Really? Tell me what. Comments flamed between ‘regular’ posters or nasty attacks on writers and sources.’

It was the attacks on sources that bothered me the most.’ These people had trusted us enough to let us tell their stories, and we opened them up to ridicule by posters with such lovely monikers as ‘dirtysanchez.’ Aren’t journalists supposed to protect their sources? I honestly believe permitting these stupid comments is a violation of that trust.

Honestly, I don’t think these comments represent the majority of readers. Go to any unmoderated message board and you’ll see the same thing. The Internet is a wonderful information tool that facilitates discussion with interesting, intelligent people across the globe 10 percent of the time.

The other 90 percent is dedicated to porn, flaming, off-topic ranting and blatant ignorance. Anonymity turns many posters into ugly people who post nasty things in an attempt to be ‘witty’ or ‘outrageous.’ That same mentality translates, unfortunately, into newspaper comment forums. Personally, I don’t believe newspapers are the place for nameless feces-slinging monkeys. There are plenty of forums that allow you to sling all you like, and they can just go there and wallow in the morass without involving what’s supposed to be a respectable information source. I don’t read comments except on occasional spates of vigilante moderation to report those that violate the always-unenforced terms of use, and I’m sure I’m not alone. But users like myself never speak up.’ The howler monkeys, who are a fairly small minority of Internet users, have control of that particular forum.

Someday, one of these comments will spark a libel suit. The fact that there is not yet case law directly dealing with them, mainly because no one who’s been defamed has put the energy into pursuing it, does not mean these things aren’t libelous. I wait eagerly for that day. In the meantime, I take pleasure in stories like yours, and I hope your readers will take this as an opportunity to write letters to the editor to express their feelings in a more grammatically-correct, less OMIGODLOLOLFUPAPERZ!!!!!!!!1111 manner.

Fight the good fight and don’t listen to the howler monkeys. They don’t represent the larger community. They just sling their feces farther.

Sarah Reynolds


former reporter