Thoughtful and articulate comments, especially when they are from people with relevant knowledge and experience, greatly enhanced my reading of the Independent. Trolls, spammers, whack-jobs, and other malcontents were allowed by you to post the vilest or most off-topic diatribes, wasting huge amounts of time and space. Why did you allow that to happen?
You only include a couple of letters to the editor in each print addition, so the online comments section provides a vital function for your readers, and the community at large. If you can control the scope and tone of letters to the editor, you can do likewise with the comments section.
Of course it is important to have posting standards in order to maintain a high quality forum, so why didn’t you set higher standards for what you would allow? Yes, it takes some time and money to “police” the comments by eliminating posts and posters that refuse to follow basic guidelines. Many of the online sites i follow have excellent comment sections, which greatly enhances my understanding of an issue. They all follow similar guidelines.
Curating/gatekeeping the comments is something part-time interns could do. Hell, I would volunteer a couple of hours a week if that would contribute to making it happen. If a comment doesn’t meet the standards you would establish, its not included, period. How difficult is that?
There are so many simple strategies that online websites use to control the dialogue that i am disappointed you gave up so easily on managing such a vital resource to our community. You made it sound like such an insurmountable hurdle, and you took the easy way out, doing a major disservice to your faithful readers.
And, finally, if your comments section was well curated, more people would be going to your website, spending more time there, and passionately debating the major issues we face as a community. Isn’t that supposed to be what your publication is all about?