“Engagement” at what price?

Local media organizations work hard, and spend a lot of money to build their brands, and associate their brands with solid content and thoughtful information.

But the “comment” sections on their news sites undo all that hard work in seconds. Troll

It is time to end comments.

Just a couple of very small, relatively mild examples from just today:

Here’s a run-of-the-mill story, that is just taken over by race-baiting trolls on the MyNorthwest (KIRO) site today: http://mynorthwest.com/11/2334793/Man-held-at-gunpoint-ordered-to-apologize-to-black-people

Here’s a story off the KOMO site where the comments have spun out of control: http://www.komonews.com/news/local/1-teen-killed-2-injured-in-Graham-crash-219766651.html

You know something, I’m really not blaming the trolls for their comments. I have come to believe they really can’t help themselves.

But the people in charge of the brands we rely on for credible information have to see this for what it is – a corrosive blotch on their otherwise generally laudable efforts.

Turning off comments is a growing trend because of liability issues, and because paying somebody to moderate instead of gather news is a waste of money.

But apparently it has yet to fully catch on here.

Very, very little of what is offered as “comment” on news stories is productive. If the trolls are offended by this, I’m sure I’ll hear it in the comments section of this blog.

Meanwhile though, one of the best solutions for retaining the all important “engagement” aspect of the station’s web presence AND reducing the troll factor is requiring commenting through Facebook. It won’t slow down all of the trolls, but it might reduce their numbers.

GMs and News Directors have to help others in the building see the comments for what they are.

Copy them, string them together into a big .pdf presentation, and then ask each other and the folks from corporate whether it’s good for the brand, or bad?

I think it really can be just that simple.