Friday, May 18, 2007

Interactive Web article dilemma

I just read this article (http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=103&aid=123269) about an article posted on a California newspaper's web site and the comments it elicited. The article was about a 40-year-old woman who had a full-term baby 2 days after finding out she was pregnant. The woman's sister had called the newspaper about this "miracle" - the woman had been trying for years to get pregnant before unknowingly conceiving and then delivering the healthy baby. The article featured a picture of the woman, who happens to be overweight, and the newborn. What was supposed to be a feel-good story turned awful after people started posting rude and disgusting comments about the woman and even her baby. They said the woman ate donuts and fast food all day, couldn't clean her house because she was too fat, was immobilized by her weight and most appallingly, that the newborn was alternately going to be taken away from the mother or would grow up to be a fat, drain-on-society. The editor and reporter were horrified for subjecting the woman to the comments. This was supposed to be a feel-good story after all. Interactiveness and participation are the future of news, but how do we deal with idiots who post horrible inaccuracies as amendments to stories? Will sources and subjects be in jeopardy in the future for fear of stinging posted comments? How can readers' comments be controlled without exercising censorship?

3 Comments:

At Saturday, May 19, 2007, Blogger AG said...

I think this raises great questions. All of the questions you are asking are questions I ask myself when I see people commenting. While I think that people's input is valuable to the business of a website, when do they become too inappropriate to post? Those are horrible things to say, but how do you censor. I feel like all of these questions are going to need to be answered soon with where the news in heading.

 
At Sunday, May 20, 2007, Blogger EJW said...

It is so hard for me to take comments on newspapers' websites seriously. From what I've seen--its usually extremists who feel compelled to leave their two cents. I don't think leaving comments is really a mainstream practice for most people yet. And since there's no filter like with letters to the editor where papers can exercise their own digression--you get horrible situations like this. I think its important for people to share their views and opinions--but I think impersonal mediums like on news websites are not valuable forums. People are too obsessed with putting their views out there for millions to see rather than inciting useful discussions.

 
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