by Roger Pynn
I’ve often referred to message boards at newspaper websites as “the sewer of the Internet” because they are often more a place for spewing anger (or even stupidity) than sharing insight or solutions, and my business partner Dan Ward has written here in the past about how newspapers are dealing with the challenges these channels present.
In Sunday’s Orlando Sentinel, Editor Mark Russell wrote a thoughtful column on the topic and shared the Sentinel’s latest efforts to capitalize on the popularity of this interactive component in the age of digital newspapering. Said, Russell, “We’re committed to making our website a place where people can engage with each other and with the Sentinel. Commenting is an important part of that.”
What stands out about the Sentinel policies is that multiple news employees are engaged in monitoring the participation on their message boards … not just one, as is the case at many papers. And, rather than simply removing something deemed offensive, they actually engage the “offender” and work to build understanding in their online community.
There remain a lot of questions about the intersection of journalism and the commercial interests of companies that now are as driven by clicks as they were 30 years ago by coupon clipping, but Russell is right, this is an interactive, user-driven age. Give them credit for a hands-on approach.