With Redesign Underway, Politico’s Ben Smith Contemplates Wrath of Commenters

As anyone who edits a blog knows, commenters can range from your sunny-dispositioned grandmother and friendly colleagues to thoughtful critics, suburban basement dwellers and possible psychopaths who talk about things like “ass pimples.” That phrase was posted recently under an item to describe a well-known Washington scribe who won’t be named because it is beyond what many consider acceptable commenting.

Politico‘s Ben Smith has been mulling over the idea of doing away with the Comment option for sometime now as Politico undergoes a redesign. He sways back and forth. This week he was on the receiving end of Fox & Friends’s Steve Doocy reading aloud “readers” remarks about Smith on TV. Doocy (or is he called “Douchey” as he was dubbed by MSNBC’s Ed Schultz or “Doozy” as he was called online) is a brave man to do such a thing because few bloggers (or TV personalities) are immune from the icy words of commenters who hide behind screen names such as “thefrontpage,” “byliner” and “nanobotoverlord” and say whatever nasty thing they please. Smith said he wasn’t offended by Doocy’s dramatic reading of the quotes, but it was enough to warrant a Wednesday post in Politico. He said Doocy’s comments were relatively mild.

Smith wrote: I am glad that those are the only comments they read from a section that, regular readers know, I’ve been working on either closing or shutting down because it can sometimes get abusive and out of control. Those are, by local standards, pieces of reasoned criticism. Fair and balanced, even.

I’m also glad that, given the weight they seem to give my commenters, they didn’t read further down the comments page to where commenters got equally lathered up about Ailes and Fox.

It’s all relative. The comments Doocy shared aloud are “mild” if you onsider “left wing extremist trash” to be vanilla-scented commentary.

But in September of last year, Smith told The Daily Beast that he was seriously reconsidering the Comment section after he was called such names as “3 yr old transexual,” “wanker” and “weasel” as he was accused of being  a “pawn of the White House.” At the time, he said, he just didn’t see that these comments added to the conversation or were “interesting.”

But now time has passed, the sting of the insults has faded. He’s not so sure.

“Not sure, as I wrote then, what happens to comments,” he remarked to FishbowlDC. “Actually, now that I know someone is actually reading them I’m a bit less inclined to remove the section than I had been.”

Stay tuned…