Why reader interaction is important

Yesterday I blogged two posts about the speech by Katharine Viner, deputy editor of the Guardian and editor-in-chief of Guardian Australia.

Yes I know it is the Guardian, but this is the first mainstream editor that shows she understands online as opposed to online plonked on top of newspaper sales.

Over the years I have tried to be as inclusive as possible with readers and commenters…most of my great posts have a seed somewhere in the readership and/or the commenters. I also try to have as light a moderation as possible…I don’t want an echo chamber, I want to encourage sensible dissenting voices as much as possible.

I believe that with the help of Pete and Travis as main moderators that we are getting the balance right and as a result w are constantly improving, not only content but also the quality of our commentariat. We are never going to be the intellectual snobs like those who inhabit Public Address’ comments section, nor are we ver going to be like the rabid forelock tuggers at Lyn Prentice’s hate blog. I think we are getting it right…and you can see that in the increase in comment traffic as we grow. This is also the premise behind a little project I have been working on since the demise of Truth…I will start to share where that is going in coming weeks.

Katharine Viner also discusses the importance of reader’s conversations.

For several years, the Guardian has been running comments beneath many of our articles, especially op-eds, requesting engagement and response. An article doesn’t end with the op-ed writer’s last full stop; in many ways, a piece is brought to life with the first comment. An op-ed without comments is now not only unthinkable to Guardian readers, but to Guardian writers too. 

But it has not been an easy process. If you open stories up to comments, then sometimes readers will say things that are threatening and rude; and certain groups, such as women and writers who are not white, can have a difficult time, despite a skilful team of moderators who give them more protection than they are afforded on social media. Some writers hate it, and it’s hard to blame them.

But when it works, it is a multi-layered encounter which helps readers and writers alike refine their points of view, hone perspectives, acquire useful new information.

When we launched Comment is Free in Australia in May, we learned from the successes and mistakes we’d made in the UK over many years. So right from the beginning, we treated our users with respect: launched the article at an appropriate time for their lives, not a time that suits newspaper deadlines; asked the writers to engage with the commenters, with editors and other Guardian colleagues; did light-touch moderation; explicitly solicited readers’ views; profiled interesting commenters; commissioned interesting commenters; used Twitter as a place to find writers; engaged with comments on other platforms too, particularly Facebook; and treated both praise and protest with consideration.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.