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WTF? Friday: News Sites Allowing Anonymous Commenters

By Communications, Media, Public Relations

I’m pretty angry this morning, so this is not your typical lighthearted Friday post. I was going to do a WTF? Friday video but I didn’t think anyone wanted to see no sleep, mad face Mj, so this is going to have to do.

Here’s what has me fired up: news organizations allowing visitors to their sites to leave anonymous comments. Think about it: the subjects of the news are called out by name; the reporters of the news are certainly not anonymous, but in some cases, newspapers, television stations and other news sources allow comments from people not required to enter their name (and an unpublished e-mail address).

I understand why it’s been handled this way; the thinking is that this fosters more open conversation and indeed, it often does stir the pot successfully. But what we’ve seen — for years now — is that the anonymity is only license for people to be real assholes.

Case in point: a friend and colleague tragically passed away in May of this year. Her parents have decided, as is well within their legal right, to take legal action in the case. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the story.¬†¬†This unleashed dozens (65 as of this writing) of comments, MANY of them cruel, thoughtless, insensitive, ignorant and downright insulting. What good does this do anyone? When I think about the additional harm to my friend’s parents as they will no doubt see the words people cast in their direction from behind the Post’s comment curtain, it makes me incensed.

The discussion is NOT what it could be, if comments were owned; about tort reform, the tragedy of sudden death or retailer responsibility. No. It is, instead just a forum for trolls, haters and idiots clinging to stereotypes and flinging words they don’t have the balls to sign their names to. We KNOW that when people use their names and when the conversation is joined by those being discussed, that the conversation is elevated; that it becomes useful, healthy discussion and that people are overall, more polite. Why not foster that, instead of hate?

Yes, I am angry.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I challenge you to change your comment policy.