To keep the comments as fresh and outstanding as they've been up to this point, we've commissioned Commenting Guru Rob Iracane, co-editor of Walk Off Walk, to write a bi-weekly Comment Ombudsman column. It runs every other week. This is that week.
Mr. Iracane is the guy who approves and deletes comments around here, and the fellow to whom you should address any comment account requests, and he will explore issues involved in commenting, what makes a great comment thread, what's working, what isn't, answer your questions, so on. We want the place to continue to be as much fun as it is every day, and it's not an execution thread like our friends at Gawker do. We like to be inclusive here, because if we're not, we'd be forced to rely on our own wit and knowledge, and that's a scary thought indeed.
So here's this week's column, in which last week's comments by Bob Costas are discussed. Of course, don't be afraid to let him have it in the comments.
There's been much uproar and hullabaloo in the sportsblogosphere about Bob Costas' anti-blogger screed in the Miami Herald. Costas is the latest in a line of several old media types who have come out against modern communication technology. Who among us could forget Bill Conlin's pompous and bloviating words against Internet bloggers, er, I mean pamphleteers. Way to stay relevant, Bill. Or who doesn't remember the time Schrutebag instigated a DOS attack on The Big Lead? Sure, anyone who prefers Lost over The Sopranos is a boob but that doesn't mean you're allowed to shut his blog down, Colin. There are two differences here, though: (1) Conlin and Cowherd are attacking bloggers, but Costas is attacking the anonymous commenter and (2) Costas is nearly correct.
Anonymous commenting on newspaper websites is the new Wild West, but instead of six-shooters, the commenters are armed with stupidity. And unfortunately, stupidity is contagious. Unless a forum is moderated, this stupidity is allowed to seep through wires and routers and reach a much larger audience than
Steve Johannes Gutenberg intended when he invented movable type. Stupidity plus impassioned fandom will always produce an awful comment. But does any of this matter? Let's take a look. Costas specifically mentions Dan Le Batard's column as a launching point for stupidity:
(Now) that pathetic get-a-life loser can piggyback onto someone who actually has some level of professional accountability and they can be comment No. 17 on Dan Le Batard's column. That, in most cases, grants a forum to somebody who has no particular insight or responsibility.
I've gone and pulled the seventeenth comment from each of Le Batard's last four columns on the Miami Herald website:
- Re: Dwyane Wade - only nine comments
- Re: Jason Taylor - "Hey Douglas...you don't have to look cross continent to see children to feel sorry for...there are plenty here in America who need love and support too!"
- Re: Fredi Gonzalez - only nine comments
- Re: Sean Taylor - "Please re read the article a few times and then comment...At no point does E tard say that Taylor was from the hood. He infers that Taylor had bad people around him at certain times of his life and that its not always easy to cut those people off. Even if it is the best thing to do. Dan isn't Shakespear (sic), so I shouldn't have to provide cliffnotes..."
Huh? Costas is right: a forum has been granted to people with no insight or responsibility. But what Bob doesn't realize is that nobody is taking these comments seriously except the idiots who are commenting. Yes, I'm taking these out of context, but look, two of the columns couldn't even garner ten comments! Go ahead and click through to read all the comments on the columns; they won't make any sense in context either. This is not a forum upon which any reasonable person in the entire world is basing their opinions. Anonymous Internet commenting is not creating new personalities that people trust; responsible readers expect some sort of body of work before they will consider someone's opinion.
The one thing that most traditional media companies don't understand is that comment sections need moderation. Deadspin is somewhat moderated; you need to audition to become a full-fledged commenter. If Gawker Media had opened the floodgates when they first put commenting on Deadspin and their other blogs, we would never have been able to create comedy pyramids without a whole lot of noise. Getting a commenter account isn't impossible, but not just anyone can stumble on an blogpost here and immediately 'piggyback' on Will's "level of professional accountability." The Miami Herald is slowly figuring this out. Maybe someday every online news outlet will have moderated comments; until then, I'm happy to stay at Deadspin where we commenters provide responsible insight to important topics every single day.
These commenters, however, avoided Bob Costas' stink-eye with their Comments of the Fortnight: