NPR Decision To Remove Comments Is A Game-Changer

National Public Radio (NPR) recently removed the comment section from its story pages. People will no longer be able to give feedback (good, bad, ugly, or troll-worthy) any longer.

This is a game-changer. And we like it.

Our approval of this move may seem counterintuitive to some, considering communication is the foundation of what we do. But unless that communication is productive, engaging, constructive or encouraging, then it doesn’t move the conversation forward.

Here is the NPR rationale they posted in mid-August 2016:

“After much experimentation and discussion, we’ve concluded that the comment sections on NPR.org stories are not providing a useful experience for the vast majority of our users. In order to prioritize and strengthen other ways of building community and engagement with our audience, we will discontinue story-page comments on NPR.org on August 23.”

Trolls Are Ruining the Internet

TIME Magazine weighed in on the issue with a six-page story about the impact on online comments, titled, “How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet.”

“When sites are overrun by trolls, they drown out the voices of women, ethnic and religious minorities, gays–anyone who might feel vulnerable. Young people in these groups assume trolling is a normal part of life online and therefore self-censor. An anonymous poll of the writers at TIME found that 80% had avoided discussing a particular topic because they feared the online response.”

You know what they say about ‘One bad apple…’ Except when it comes to social media, it’s an orchard-full that is spoiling it for the rest of us.

Does “No Comments” Equal No Dialogue?

So what does this mean for social media professionals and users? It means we have to get more creative about how we relate to our audience, how we engage our readers, and how we manage our online sites. When the Internet began 25 years ago, it was with good intentions: Community, information, entertainment. But one thing is certain: Destructive online comments were not part of the plan. It’s everyone’s responsibility to try and combat this culture, but there’s only so much one person can do among the multitudes of trolls.

NPR made a bold move. Will other communication giants take notice? Time will tell. But in the interim, we remain hopeful that anyone posting online comments does so with only good intentions in mind. After all, just because you find one bad apple, doesn’t mean you should give up on the entire harvest.

What do you think about NPR’s decision? Good move, or bad idea? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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