More than a decade ago, newspapers were one of the first to champion the digital commentary forums open to everyday citizens. The hope was that journalism would be enhanced and that more opinions being aired without oversight would foster a more thoughtful populace. Those predictions were further empowered because people could remain anonymous and speak more honestly.
We, too, believed in that dream when we launched Independent.com in 2006, and we’ve kept those channels wide open ever since. But that idealistic dream has turned out to be a giant nightmare: Our comment pages are a cesspool of rage, ignorance, racism, sexism, class warfare, and insults of all sorts.
The rare occurrence of a productive discussion is exponentially overwhelmed by diatribes from all trenches on the political spectrum. Anonymity only makes the conversations more hateful and irresponsible.
Vindictive comments discourage sources from coming forward, leaving stories unreported. Logistically, it would take a full-time staffer to monitor the section for vile comments and to respond to offended readers. That’s something the Independent cannot afford. And the number of tips that our reporters have actually gleaned from the zillions of comments? A mere handful over the past decade. This experiment has actually led to less information, not more.
So as of today, we are eliminating our online comments. We are not the first newspaper to make such a decision, and we certainly will not be the last. Past comments will remain intact.
In its 32-plus-year history, the Independent has always been committed to publishing our readers’ views both in print and online, and we will continue to do so via our traditional Letters and Voices channels. Send such comments, with your real name, to email@example.com.
Comments will continue to be welcome via our social media portals, particularly through our Facebook page.
Our reporters will continue to take your tips, whether with your name or anonymously. Send those to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our hope is that this change will make Independent.com a better place for learning about one another and the community where we live and a space where viewpoints can be expressed without demeaning others.