Why We Have A Comments Section For Our Stories

By: Jim Ogle
By: Jim Ogle

I am sure that many of you are aware of a tragic incident more than a week ago in northern Kansas where two people died in a late night vehicle collision.

As with all the stories we post, we provide a section on our web channel that gives those reading the opportunity to post comments.  A huge number of people have done so.  You could wear out the dictionary listing all the adjectives that could describe some of the posts.  Both on the good and the bad side.

I have had about 10 people write me asking that we drop the comments section, or only post positive comments.

Here is how I have responded to them:

"Thank you for taking the time to write me about your concern, frustration, and even anger about the posts by some of the people contributing to the comments section for the story on the two people killed in an auto accident. 


For the families involved, the incident is horrific.  That middle-of-the-night phone call announcing disaster is one no parent or family member wants to pick up.  I have been on the receiving end of such phone calls.  I understand the pain.  All of us here at WIBW send our condolences.


Let me address your note.


We provide the opportunity to comment on stories on our web channel because most successful web channels do so.  The users of those sites want the opportunity to comment on stories or posts at their choice.  Ironically, this is not a new phenomenon.  It is in the time-honored tradition of the “letter to the editor” that began in newspapers several hundred years ago.  By definition, the comments section is not news.  It is the opinion of those who post.


We do not edit the posts.  If someone makes a spelling, usage, or other error, it appears just as they posted it.  We do not choose which opinions post and block those we do not support. 


We do eliminate any posts that contain obscene words.  I have kept three comments from posting for that reason.  I do not know how many others on our staff have blocked for that reason.   


The overwhelming number of comments expressed sympathy for those family members directly affected.  But sympathy is not the only emotion.  There is clearly anger about the time and circumstances surrounding the incident.  The comments section on this story reflects the reality of that anger felt.


We don’t air comments such as these in television newscasts because people receive material in the order we select.  There is no way to avoid seeing the section if you were watching television.  It would pop up on the screen without warning.


That is not true with the web.  The user chooses what they click on and read.  If you are not interested, then do not read it.


I recognize that some of the comments must be painful to family members and friends of those involved.  All of those comments are opinions.  Some of those opinions degrade and attack those involved in the incident.  I cannot imagine why a family member would intentionally enter a section such as this when they know there are those people who are questioning the circumstances and motivation of their loved one who perished in the incident.


Because there is clear controversy about the circumstances associated with the incident, we will continue to post comments.  At the same time, we will continue to press for answers to the questions raised by so many about this awful tragedy."

What are your thoughts?

Post a comment below.



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