Greg Sargent at TalkingPointsMemo writes about Clark Hoyt's revelation that the NY Times has opened its stories and some opinion pieces to online comment. The Times has hired people to carefully scrutinize comments before they are posted (I guess we won't be seeing any "Heywood Jablomie" comments, soon, kind of like what CNN get through not long ago.) It's more than being hoity-toity--it's about class and politics. As Sargent points out, one of the issues is not allowing a nutjob's posting to be a.posted b.accidentally or otherwise confused with what the Times wrote. As Sargent writes:
The paper's editors have to know that right-wing bloggers and talk-show hosts will be relentlessly scouring the Times Web site for nutjob anti-troops or pro-assassination reader comments that they can use to depict the paper as a bastion of fifth columnists who are trying to destroy America from within, just as Bill O'Reilly did to DailyKos recently.
In other words, as goes on around the Internet a lot, Nutjob A, pro-Norwegian, pretends to be otherwise and posts a slur against Norwegians. This allows Nutjob B to proclaim on his TV/radio show/Web site or guest appearance on someone else's TV/radio show/Web site that the comment proves that the Times is anti-Norwegian, has always been anti-Norwegian, will always be anti-Norwegian and is no doubt actually Swedish or least in league with the Swedes. And something needs to be done about it. That's the kind of thing that leads to denunciations on the House floor.
Good forums that are reasonably policed bring out smart readers. It doesn't hurt us to have well-informed people commenting publicly on what we've produced. The good forums--Metafilter.com is a good example--are highly informative; the occasional dopey remark is disposed of, disproven pretty quickly and meantime, lots of good information and thought has been added. Metafilter, of course, is a little different from a newspaper site in that it consists of links to others' writings, followed by the aforementioned commentary, as opposed to the original reporting of newspapers.
Still, both kinds of forums could be useful. If little else than noise is produced, maybe not. But it's worth the try.