When I began this blog, most articles attracted comment or three. But what I always got, and what I still get, are social media discussions (sometimes on G+, mostly twitter).
Before Social Media was a thing, I hung out on Usenet. Any user could start a thread by posting a link to an article (or more often, the entire article). Comments followed: some good, some bad, some outright trolls.
When Boards.ie first came along, it looked like usenet on a website, without the benefits of a usenet client. Clients gave you the ability to mute threads and articles, or block posters. “Do not feed the troll” is a motto born on usenet, where the most efficient way to stop the attention-seekers was to block and ignore.
There’s no rule that news article comments have to be on the same page (or site) as the story itself. And there’s nothing to stop any newspaper setting up a comments only website. Think of it. You log on, see a list of headlines and lead paragraphs, and you can either click to read the article on the main news website, or add your tuppenceworth. Newspaper readers get their news, commenters get their forum.
Postscript: Going back to the usenet client analogy: If a newsaper provides me with an app to use on my phone/table, then why can’t the app give me the ability to filter commenters I want to block/watch?