Anyone who follows me on Twitter (or who’s read this post) will know that story comments and the negative atmosphere they can create has exercised me recently.
But here’s a quick thought. Maybe the ‘quick to criticise’ aspect isn’t so bad after all. Frustrating, yes, but also a challenge.
Take this, for example. I like this story: How Bournemouth Christmas Tree raised the roof From Bournemouth Echo. It’s quite funny. It’s seasonal.
But as one commenter points out, it also includes a pointless adjective (don’t ask me who subbed it, I don’t know) and there’s no mention at all in the copy of the firefighters in the picture, why they’re putting a smoke detector on the top of the tree or how dad-of-three Grieg persuaded them to take part.
Two things I think this illustrates: the web DOES need subs. Whatever you call them or however your system works, somebody has to have quality control, final checks, removal of lazy cliches.
Point two: We can’t get away with the kind of reporting my old tutor, the legendary John Foscolo, would have called slapdash (actually I don’t think I ever heard him say the word slapdash. Would definitely have been a D- though.) If we do half a job, people WILL pull us up, in public, and immediately. And that’s no bad thing.
Frustrating and annoying and embarassing, yes. But in the long term, maybe it’s good for quality?
When I was a news editor, under the equally legendary Anita Syvret, I made sure our copy was as good as I could make it before I showed it to her, because I knew what she’d say if I didn’t.
Perhaps our angry story commenters are the virtual equivalent of the angry editor or chief sub. They won’t accept sloppy writing. And why should they?