Comment sections are increasingly common at the end of online media articles and blogs, encouraging users to post their opinions, and to stimulate discussion and interaction (Neilson, 2012). However, through researching the particular case of the Australian DJs Royal hoax, I discovered that there are still some online publications that do not provide a comment section at the completion of the article. Could this be attributed to the difficulty in moderating the discussion that is generated?
According to Allen (cited in Martin, 2012), “Debate and dissent is healthy”. Comment forums allow for the audience to be heard, actively participate in the discussion, however, concerns have been raised surrounding the editorial and ethical capabilities of the general public (Martin, 2012). Whose responsibility is it to moderate this content; our own, or the publications?
Australian DJ’s Royal Hoax
Recently in the news, was the scandal surrounding the two Australian DJ’s and the prank hey played on the hospital Kate Middleton was being treated at. Tragically, the nurse who put through the prank call, Jacintha Saldanah, committed suicide a few days after this news broke around the world. We’re all quick to lay blame and the comment sections on online publications and blogs provided the perfect avenue for people to vent their feelings.
The first article I clicked on, ‘Australian radio station boss refuses to sack royal prank DJs and claims THEY are the victims’, by the Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2244608/Jacintha-Saldanha-death-Australian-radio-station-boss-refuses-sack-Royal-prank-DJs.html, had over 4500 comments on the story, all within a two day period.
In and around the comment section on this article, Daily Mail has provided the following information:
- “The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline”
- “These comments below have been moderated in advance”
- “We are no longer accepting comments on this site”
In addition to this, Daily Mail has a rating system for the comments.
The next article I looked at, on Yahoo News (http://news.yahoo.com/uk-no-charges-australian-royal-hoax-djs-122753475.html), there are 97 comments regarding this topic. Yahoo took a different approach to the moderation of this discussion. You have the ability to report abuse, and to rate the comments based on its content. However, if comments are found to be offensive, it is hidden, but can still be viewed if you click on it. There were a number of comments moderated on this website. These comments involved racism, remarks about the monarchy or jokes regarding suicide. I did not feel comfortable quoting these posts, so at your own discretion; refer to the above link to investigate further.
The third article I read was on Sky News (http://news.sky.com/story/1050425/royal-hoax-dj-michael-christian-back-on-air). In order to leave a comment on their website, you must sign up an account, and thus, “by posting a comment, you are agreeing to abide by our terms and conditions”.
The above articles demonstrate a number of different techniques to moderate the discussion on online articles. As a media student, I feel as though I have the right to view, and subsequently make my own judgements and decisions based on the discourse surrounding certain events and topics. But if I was the manager of an online publication, I would disclose that the comments do not reflect those of the company, to ensure that any backlash doesn’t affect their brand and reputation. I think it is important to allow the audience to remain anonymous when engaging in discussion, and thus, it is our responsibility to moderate what we write online.
Martin, F (2012), ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei: ANB Online and the risks of dialogic interaction’, in Histories of Public Service Broadcasters on the Web, Editor, N. Brugger and M. Burns. New York: Peter land, pp177-192
Neilson, C (2012), ‘Newspaper Journalists Support Online Comments’, Newspaper Research Journal, vol33, no1, pp86-100