While there are plenty of lessons from the Press Herald Apology (or “Apologygate if you’re looking for a hashtag), one that stuck out to me is what exactly is the role of reader comments in the editorial process?
One of my complaints about the whole affair is that by issuing an apology, particularly to all those voicing their anger over Facebook, Twitter, email and online comments, the Press Herald had “cede(ed) editorial control to the crowd.”
But how should newspapers use reader comments when it comes to making decisions on coverage, story placement or even the reporting process?
(For the moment let’s set aside the other debates on comments, meaning we won’t talk about whether they’re worthwhile or how to improve them. Though former Press Herald colleague Carl Natale has a good idea on how to try and make them civil`.)
The easiest answer is tips and story ideas, as evidenced by this blog post. In the previous post on L’Affair de Press Herald, a commenter said something that stuck in my head:
“And I disagree with you, in that in our web 2.0 world with all of its new interactions between big institutions and their constituents, in a world of declining circulation, and in a world of crowdsourcing, that all newspapers are missing the boat here by retaining 100% control over what stories are reported.”
(Thanks to the commenter who wrote that…but next time think about leaving your name for credit! Also, can we not use the phrase Web 2.0? Please?)