Posties Weigh In On Comments

We’ve gotten our hands on some posts to the Washington Post’s internal critique board, and lots of Posties are pretty upset about the comments.

Tom Lachman: “does the post want to be a forum for racist screeds?”

Jason Ukman: “The other day there was a reader comment about one of the Bush daughters and fellatio. Then there was the one about the need to kill Israeli soldiers…Complaints about this problem have been registered many, many times in this forum. The reply always come back like this: Dotcom spot checks the comments, and viewers can request certain comments be removed. That system is about a million miles away from full-proof. If we’re okay with having an imperfect system, fine. But we also have to accept the fact that our laissez fare philosophy means we routinely — meaning every day — become the publisher of trash.”

Neely Tucker: ” from our unedited ‘reader comments’ on the website…check out hamil’s piece on ray nagin… ‘black people like nagin are nothing more than opportunist azzholes!!’ … ‘IF a white MAN were to speak as you do,guaranteed, you*d look for a lynching party'”

Tim Page: “I agree that a lot of what we publish as ‘reader commentary’ is sick, racist homophobic and simply stupid. But there have been other times when it has seemed dead on, addressing subjects the Post itself is uncomfortable with.”

Meg Smith: “I think it would help A LOT if our friends across the river would change the comment settings so the most recent comment rises to the top and the older ones fall to the bottom. For one thing, the racists (whom you get to know pretty well if you’re a regular reader of comments) are racing to make the first yellow puddle at the bottom of each story we post.”

Phillip Blanchard: “Re: ‘reader comments’: Spot-checking and self-policing do not work. Only moderation–which is time-consuming and ‘labor intensive’– would help. That would require money probably better spent on other things. Solution: Drop the ‘comments.’ Even if got rid of the racist, homophobic, misogynic, obscene and otherwise offensive comments, the pointless, stupid and repetitive ones would remain. There are enough Web sites in the world on which to post stupid and pointless comments. Why legitimize them with the Washington Post ‘brand’?”

Shankar Vedantam
: “Reader comments on the website can be dismaying, stupid and offensive but we should guard against the tendency to withdraw into our shells.”

Neely Tucker: “my only point, and I can’t believe this even needs making: if we can’t keep a filter or monitor that keeps phrases such as ‘racist douche bag’ or ‘congo monkey’ (as a black person I profiled recently was described), off our site, we need to quit.”

Darryl Fears: “With all due respect to my good friend Shankar, I strongly believe we should nix the reader comments. Freedom of speech is important, of course, but it loses significance when the speaker is anonymous and bears no consequence of what is said.”

Derek Willis: “‘Freedom of speech is important, of course, but…’ ‘But’? From journalists?”

Jason Ukman: “On the comments, let readers say whatever they want to say; I just don’t understand why *we* have to be the ones to publish it.”

Darryl Fears: “Oh, please. The Washington Post says ‘but’ to free speech every friggin’ day. We don’t run photographs of American war corpses in the paper. Len deplores putting the ‘N-word’ and the ‘B-word’ in the paper.”

Meg Smith: “There is already an example of a family not wanting to cooperate with a reporter on a second-day story, because they read the vile comments at the bottom of our breaking story.”

Libby Copeland: “What about the part that the comments play in keeping readers on our website?…I don’t think the stupid comments muddy the WashPo the brand. Readers get the distinction between what we write and what the commenters write.”

Tim Page: “What about a strong warning that the Post does not endorse the statements made in the comments?”

Keith Richburg: “…here is sampling of reader comments now currently posted on our Web site. For Pam Constable’s March 20 article on illegal immigrants: ‘Too many Salvadoreans like roaches, just deport them . They make this area and every other latinos look bad.’ ‘Sniff…..sniffff….my heart bleeds. Aw, heck…let them all in. Plenty of lawns to mow.'”

Jim Brady’s response a little later…