Readers’ comments: A threat to journalists’ credibility or a boon to press freedom?

Unlike in printed newspapers or magazines, most online news sites provide readers a forum in which to comment, ask questions, correct factual errors, or even criticize a journalist’s take on an issue.

Many in the news industry have embraced the trend of allowing readers to comment on – and even add facts to – the news, saying that such comments often contribute to the goal of reporting the full story. Yet others think comments can push readers away and end up hurting the story, especially if they are speculative, crude, or biased.

What do you think? Does allowing readers to post comments run the risk of lessening a news organization's or journalist’s appeal? Or does allowing readers the space to comment – however they wish – ultimately enhance the news and foster a free press? 

IJNet would like to hear your opinion. Join the discussion by clicking on "Add a Comment" below. Please identify your country if possible. Thanks for your participation.

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The goal of jou

The goal of journalism is to cater news to the audience. If there is no listener/reader there is no existence of journalism. Ignoring the views of the audience means the very meaning of catering news becomes futile.

As the media is becoming a corporate sector the writer should cater the story to the audience as per its demand. The writer, therefore, should have guts to accept either extolling or bashing rejoinders in order to provide the end users (the audience) with a story of their requirements.

I dont think it

I dont think its wise to let the public to comment on media publications because the opinion is usually not neutral. Therefore a divided public on a particular issue the press is addressing, will only result to conflict and at the long run this discredits the media organization.

Journalist are responsible people and professionals. If the public is not comfortable with publications there are many ways to react; Press conferences, opinions and letters to the editors. we all cannot be journalists and this is a fact.

Rosemary, Kenya.

I think allowin

I think allowing reader post comments do not only ehance a free press but it also empower journalists to be creative in their writing.

It teaches journalists to work in line with the rules and regulation of journalistic code.

Active audience

Active audiences will comment - online and offline - whether or not mainstream media provide them with the space to do so. Those (in competitive news environments) who engage in a conversation with users are likely to be seen as valuable members of their communities. Those who don't may be talked about, at best. But, increasingly, metrics show that arrogant media are simply being ignored.

At our internet

At our internet journal during a recent (and ongoing) civil/political crisis, we have found that our comments section has become a platform for debate that has revealed a surprising degree of division between not only oppositionists and pro-government, but between foreigners/locals and, even, between members of the general populace and the country's "sister" enclave. While our articles had touched on these issues, we could not possibly have measured the depth of the feelings as strongly as were expressed in readers' free comments.

That said, we also had to create a means of monitoring the comments, as the section became a platform for hatred and slander.

All said, the comments indicated that our reporting had been well targeted. And: As others here have suggested, it would have discredited the validity of our reporting, if we had allowed such comments to appear in the articles, rather than in a "comment" section where, even there, they required careful evaluation.

While our industry is changing and elements of a new journalism emerge (i.e., CNN's "ireports"), we should not confuse journalism with instant access to information. Even an eyewitness account needs the perspective of reasoned reporting to convey a balance and fairness.

Journalists are

Journalists are the Agenda Setters.They set the news and discussions. It is only a professional in a given field who best knows how that field functions. Therefore, since journalism is not for every person, as not every person is fit to be a journalist, let those who are not in the profession not think that they can take the place of a journalist especially as they would never manage the principles of objectivity. As such, it would not be good for the reader, viewer or listener to be allowed to comment on the news and the style as presented by the journalist. However, a discussion forum can be created for the public to say what they think on an issue, but not as presented by the journalist or news organisation. The public should not be allowed to judge the way a news item has been presented by the journalist.
Manzie Vincent Doh, Publisher, Editor-in- chief, Cameroon Trumpet Newspaper, Cameroon.

I am of the opi

I am of the opinion that media houses should not give the audience an exclusive free will to comment on stories. This is because people's take on each and every story will always be biased and and of particular schools of though that appeal to them. The moment we integrate audience opinions on stories, we water down the very credibility that journalists are obliged to uphold. This is not to say that the media should not be interactive. The audience should be allowed to comment through specially designated sections such as letters to the editor and opinion columns. Mark Oloo, Kenya (

As part of free

As part of freedom of expression people should be allowed to comment on issues. In my country its even made better with people commenting on different isues in the print media on radio.

Rebecca Hurd sa

Rebecca Hurd say te thing as it should be. The comments following up a published story should respect the need of relevance. There are countries where the sense of commenting is rather calculatedly destroyed, often because the added freedom is considered a threat. Yet the greatest usefull addition shouldbe the new and verifiable fact which changes the general possibility to see and to understand. Their use is thus far not well organised. It is a form of waste.

Readers should

Readers should be allowed to comment online in the same manner they would be allowed to do so in print (i.e., letters to the editor) -- with supervision and editing, where appropriate. U.S.-based media outlets are responsible for their virtual content, too, and should not publish material they know to be inaccurate, unfair, or malicious. Readers who want to comment on current events without editing are free to start their own blogs/Web sites, for which they may be held accountable, legally, ethically, and otherwise.

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