Below the Line

Image via

Everyday, in every newspaper, editors go through correspondence from readers and pick the best for publication.

Done well, a letters page gives a feel for public opinion, for which stories are striking a chord, and which arguments are winning.

Put another way, user generated content is nothing new.

Yet online, its has become almost an iron law to Never Read The Comments. The bottom half of the internet, in public discourse, is where all the mean bullies and trolls live. And nowhere is this opinion more popular than among old-school journalists.

So why don’t journalists apply the same logic to the internet that they do to their own pages?

No editor would ever print every single letter received. Before anyone heard of trolls, journalists were taught to avoid the Green Ink contributors.

Editors pick the best letters for publication. Why not the same for comments? Why are we content to moderate letters, so that they only need pass a minimum standard (not defamatory, no obscenity, whatever).

Why not treat comments as we treat letters to the editor, selecting only the best.

And sure, it restricts the conversation. But if you don’t make the cut, go set up your own website.

Image via
Image via

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.