Monday, April 19, 2010

Wall Street Journal column incorrect about Peer News in column on comments on news Web sites

A column by Gordon Crovitz in Monday's Wall Street Journal mischaracterizes our approach to comments at Peer News, the start-up news service in Honolulu I'm working on with eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

As soon as I saw his column Sunday, I contacted Crovitz to ask him for a clarification. I've exchanged thoughts with him before and appreciate the work he does in his column. He was gracious and said he would pass my comments along to his editors for a possible clarification or letter to the editor.

Here's what I wrote him Sunday.

Hi Gordon,

Thanks for mentioning Peer News in your latest column, but I wish you had contacted me before you wrote that paragraph. It doesn't accurately reflect our position. I would ask that you publish a clarification. Members of our subscription-based service will be able to post their thoughts on a regular basis. But they won't be presented in the way "comments" are traditionally on news sites. We have a whole strategy for how to handle this. Our intent is actually to encourage civil dialogue and debate, not stop people from talking.

You wrote:

Peer News, a new site launching in Hawaii and funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, will not permit comments at all. Editor John Temple said anonymity had so reduced responsibility that comments sections have been dominated by "racism, hate, ugliness" and "reflect badly on news organizations that have them."

Here's the top of my blog post from March 18, with the note that I had that day or the next clarified my statement about comments.

This is a draft of the speech I gave at the Newsmorphosis conference in Honolulu on Thursday, March 18. My actual remarks varied from this outline. You can see my talk on ustream.

Updated to clarify my statement about "comments."

Then here's what I wrote in the text to clarify:

Maybe now you’ll understand why we’re not going to have "comments". (I put quotes around the word comments after Jay Rosenpointed out that it sounded like I was saying it was going to be a one-way conversation. My point was that we were going to have debate, discussions, conversations - not comments. We think we can create a more satisfying and civil environment through this approach, rather than using "comments" after an article.)

I put quotes around comments, because I was trying to differentiate how we're going to approach conversation and dialogue with the widespread approach on news sites of allowing people to post anything under a story. We will not have comments on article pages. We will tell members that if they want to discuss the topic of an article, they should go to a hosted discussion on what we're calling a beat update page, where the reporter-hosts and editors will interact with our members. We will also have ratings for the comments that members post on the beat updates pages.

I hope this helps. I'd be happy to discuss. But I would very much appreciate your help in clarifying this.


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