Radio New Zealand and others to turn off comments on their sites

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When RNZ switched on comments last year, it was an experiment to see whether we could create a space where thoughtful and insightful comments would thrive.

And while the comments have been, for the most part, exactly that, there haven’t been many people involved in that conversation.

So essentially, RNZ have let these people down. Instead of protecting the people who are putting thoughtful and insightful comments online, they are now letting the mob win. 

More and more, the conversations around RNZ’s journalism are happening elsewhere. We want to focus on making those spaces reflect that journalism and our charter.

As part of our upcoming overall redesign of the website, we’ll be making it easier for you to find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and you can always email us, text us, or even send us an actual letter.  [WO’s emphasis]

It seems to me “Engagement Editor” Megan has failed to wrestle the comment beast to the ground.

I have no problem with the idea that they’ve put it into the too-hard basket, but it continues to demonstrate that traditional media misunderstand the internet, and its potential.

It also seems a bit of an overnight decision to me, as less than a day before their announcement RNZ were still excited about the engagement they achieved on a story.

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Oddly enough, Nige and I were considering setting up a “moderation” company a few weeks ago.  We would, for a fee, implement and run moderation on other websites, then train staff to take over from us. It’s not hard. It really isn’t. What is clear, though, is that site operators don’t understand how to do it.

Whaleoil has an audience that is larger than Radio New Zealand. We manage just fine. Unless we’re targeted specifically by a group of people intent on doing harm, it doesn’t even make it to a full-time job for one person.

It seems other media outlets are also tired of battling the idiots and social justice warriors:

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The problem that traditional journalism faces when dealing with the internet is that they haven’t grown up with the concept of having their work pulled apart in detail, day after day. They still think, and act, as broadcasters. No matter how much they say they want to engage, and are interested in your views, they are patently not.

I feel pride on behalf of Fairfax’s Stuff Nation. They are the only ones in New Zealand (other than Whaleoil) that actually got it right from the start. They have proven that embracing their own readers and providing a platform isn’t just possible, it is profitable. Laughable attempts by NZME to copy this success shows that they also don’t “get it”.

You do need to truly want it. Just turning on comments doesn’t work, which is why people and organisations on the internet that aren’t genuinely interested in public engagement become bewildered and overwhelmed quickly.

One of our own moderators visited RNZ yesterday, and told me:

I’ve just looked through RNZ comments on the subject. Quite a bit of irony there as people basically prove the point

“Obviously RNZ didn’t like all the politically incorrect comments that mainstream NZ thought – so rather than face them, just block them!”

Then the reply.

“Silly remark Topguy. That was good of you to write though as an example of the facile gloop that so frequently turns up where the hoi polloi have a chance to show their wisdom and wit.”

They…just don’t…get it.

Nope.

The thing is, the quality commenters who have been drowned out at RNZ and not been protected from the social justice warriors, the bored and the terminally stupid, will most likely look for a new home. These people are worth their weight in gold for any website that they choose to spend their time on.

They add value in excess of their cost to moderate and manage.

But, you know, they can always write a letter to RNZ from next week. Like, print it, find an envelope, put a stamp on it and take it to the post office.

 

– Pete


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