“If the readers felt more empowered, more listened to and more part of the process they would be less fighty”

Trinity Mirror journalist, David Higgerson, blogged yesterday discussing whether online comments were worth the bother.

Trolls, nastiness, timewasters, spam are all potential problems when news stories and opinion pieces are open to user comments. But despite these problems, turning comments off is the last thing news orgs should be doing.

Sarah Hartley in the comments made this great point:

With news, if the only invite is to comment on what’s been delivered from on high it could be quite frustrating for a reader who knows something about the topic. If the readers felt more empowered, more listened to and more part of the process they would be less fighty. Bloggers are generally more willing to involve the reader in the process – something that news sites could learn from perhaps?

There are countless reasons for trollish behaviour and this won’t solve all of them. But so much could be solved by making users feel involved and part of the story.

The article is not the end of the story, it’s the beginning of a conversation. A great story should spark some debate. The best, most informed story ever written could still be improved by another expert’s opinion.

There are times when comments make you want to tear your hair out. But ignoring them isn’t the answer.