The other day your Lost Coast Outpost enjoyed a long talk with freelance reporter Michael Joyce, who was working on a story about comments and comment sections in Humboldt County. 

Well, that story has dropped — or part of it has, anyway — over at Jefferson Public Radio. It’s a four-minute clip that includes interviews with Thad Greenson of the North Coast Journal, J Warren Hockaday of News Channel 3, journalism professor Marcy Burstiner and myself. Here, give a listen:

“Are Online Comment Sections Wearing Out Their Welcome?” JPR, Oct. 18, 2016

What do you think? Not bad, right? It caught the fear and loathing and existential dread that comment threads still inspire in some — even after all these years! — as well as the standard defenses of the genre.

For myself, I thought maybe Joyce missed a good chance for self-reflective irony — whatever the radio equivalent of an arched eyebrow in the mirror would be — when he gathers some vox populi from sauna-goers at the Arcata Pool (?). The salt-of-the-Earth types he locates there, we learn, “share opinions the old-fashioned way — face-to-face, with a real name attached.”

Who are they? Ummm…

I spoke with JoAnn, Eric and Tyler, who asked me not use their last names.

Prof. Burstiner, whose thoughts on internet commenting have always been a little scattered, seems not to have arranged them much in the three years since she wrote wistfully of the days when you shut someone up by punching them in the face. I’m not clear entirely what her argument is, here — possibly because of Joyce’s need to fit everything into a couple of minutes — but it seems to go something like:

  • Comments are content!
  • So you have to edit them! 
  • A newspaper edits things, right?
  • If you don’t edit the comments, then they are merely a public discussion.


Maybe this will be more developed in the longer piece that Joyce told me he hopes to produce on the subject. 

Anyway. Not much happening below the comment line over at iJPR, there. Have at it right here at LoCO!