If it were up to me, we’d just call it a failed experiment, like New Coke or Lindsay Lohan’s music career. We tried it. It went off the rails. And now we’re done.
But alas, with every day that passes, the comment sections of news websites persist. The argument in their defense is that they increase engagement and give readers an opportunity to have their voices be heard. Not for nothing, they also keep people coming back to the website, which is great for pageviews and thus, great for advertising which the journalism industry desperately needs to survive as the economics of the news business evolve.
So what’s the problem?
Comment sections are a fucking cesspool of idiotic negativity. We happen to live in a city where our most-trafficked news site is home to some of the most toxic comments on the Internet. Racism, sexism, and violence are pervasive themes in the comments sections of Philly.com, but also across the entire universe of web publishing.
However, it’s not all slut-shaming and race baiting these days. After years and years of reading comments, journalists have started to roll their eyes at certain tropes that pop up seemingly regardless of what kind of content is created. Here, a list of some that are so tired, so over-used that it’s about time they — like New Coke and Lindsay Lohan’s record deal — get retired once and for all.
1. “Who cares?”
Commenter thinks: “If I keep telling this news outlet that their content is irrelevant, maybe they’ll write something that is important to me.”
Journalist thinks: “Uh, you apparently cared enough to read and comment, so …”
2. “Was this written by a third grader?”
Commenter thinks: “I can tell the difference between good writing and bad writing and this is definitely bad writing.”
Journalists thinks: “You don’t get my style at ALL.”
3. “Thousands of troops die every year but you cover this instead?”
Commenter thinks: “This drivel is not news.”
Journalist thinks: “It’s not an either or situation. Turns out you can be sad about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death and thousands of troops at the same time. Who knew?”
4. “What do you expect in Obama’s America?”
Commenter thinks: “The world is going to hell in a handbasket and this media outlet is contributing to that by reporting on the news.”
Journalist thinks: “Well, at least they didn’t call me a ‘libtard.’”
5. “Stop trolling.”
Commenter thinks: “I personally believe that this piece was written to increase pageviews and even though I clicked through and read it, I am very angry about that.”
Journalist thinks: “Back atcha!”
6. “This publication has sunk to a new low.”
Commenter thinks: “This is not the content I am accustomed to seeing in this publication.”
Journalist thinks: “Wait until you see our roundup of kitten videos next week!”
7. “You call this journalism?”
Commenter thinks: “This isn’t news!”
Journalist thinks: “Yes.”
8. “I hope no one was paid for this.”
Commenter thinks: “I bet the writer got $500 for this 500-word web piece!”
Journalist thinks: “Trust me. It wasn’t anywhere near as much as you think.”
9. “This article is bias!”
Commenter thinks: “The news is supposed to be fair and balanced. Therefore, no one should write about their own thoughts or viewpoints.”
Journalist thinks: “You spelled ‘biased’ wrong, idiot.”
10. “Slow news day?”
Commenter thinks: “Didn’t anything interesting happen today? This is all the news there is to print?”
Journalist thinks: “Actually, yeah. And thank goodness, because I got to catch up on Buzzfeed quizzes and I ate lunch somewhere besides my desk.”
Share the commenter tropes you’re tired of with @errrica Twitter.