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USA Today reports on a number of media outlets that have decided to eliminate the comments sections that traditionally have followed stories on their websites, citing the often toxic, irrelevant and bullying tone used by some readers.

Among the media companies are National Public Radio (NPR) and the Quad-City Times, following earlier examples set by Popular Science, CNN, Reuters, and the Chicago Sun Times.

Autumn Phillips, executive editor of the Quad-City Times, says that she reached the decision after finding "a sea of ridiculousness, hate speech and online bullying" in comments sections. And both Phillips and NPR emphasized that "the decisions hardly meant that the news outlets no longer were interested in what their audiences were thinking. Both stressed their eagerness to hear from readers and listeners on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter  and in a wide variety of other ways. But both agreed that comments had run their course. And so they have."
KC's View:
While toxicity of sentiment, tone and actual content is not isolated to websites' comments sections, it is on these sites that they tend to achieve their highest volume and lowest standards. I found this USA Today story interesting because I made the decision almost 16 years ago on MNB not to create an online bulletin board where anybody could say anything, even though it would save me all the time that I spend reading emails and deciding which ones to post. I just figured that part of my editorial responsibility was to curate the comments and keep the conversation on course. (One always has to be aware of the lunatic fringe...)

I think that the general tenor of the discourse in America these days - I talked about this yesterday in my comments about how consumers often are unpleasant to store and hotel employees around the country - means that anyone with a website that encourages consumers to comment/respond needs to be vigilant about the things that people say there.