Media & Communications Law

Unrelenting 'Nastiness' Cited as Reason Paper Is Shutting Down Comments on Courts, Crime Stories

After three years of allowing comments on its news stories, Wisconsin’s Janesville Gazette is taking a step back and shutting down commenting on stories about crime, courts, accidents, race or sex.

“The nastiness,” says editor Scott Angus, proved to be “too much.”

Angus detailed the paper’s new policy earlier this month. An even though the paper’s website gets about 10,000 comments a month, draws traffic and allowed interaction, the editors decided the level of incivility was no longer worth the “ugliness” in the commenting.

Why only stories about crimes, courts, accidents, race or sex? Angus says those stories seem to draw the most troublesome comments.

“The comments typically start out OK, but they deteriorate into insults, innuendo or otherwise offensive remarks,” he writes. “Those of us who monitor conversations on gazettextra have found ourselves consistently removing comments from such discussions and ultimately disabling threads. People simply can’t or won’t behave.”

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