Over the years comments and audience interaction have become an increasingly prominent part of NCPR’s online presence. We have conversations on Facebook, around photos and blog posts, about poems and articles and programs and policies. Sometimes a handful, sometimes hundreds tussling back and forth across days. In general that’s a good thing, but sometimes it can get pretty toxic, and then I get to reluctantly don my hat as conversation moderator. As interaction has grown, this role is taking up more and more of my time.
Commenters on The Listening Post are generally pretty mild, kind and helpful. I’m not given to expounding on the great controversies of the day. As Ellen Rocco told me on one memorable occasion, “Dale, nobody cares whether you think the the aliens hovering over the earth in their Mothership have four eyes rather than three.” To which I say, “Nobody cares–YET.”
The same is also true about commenters in the Book Club and The Dirt, and even the new Prison Time blog. But our news stories and the In Box news blog posts seem to draw a regular crop of rancor and dyspepsia. I was crunching the numbers yesterday and looked at who posts comments at the In Box–the 38,099 comments at the In Box. And I found that more than 20,000 (52% of all comments) come from nine individual users. One could call them “highly-engaged readers,” or more colloquially “frequent flyers.”
Recently, scientists have been saying that their sites devoted to conversation on matters of research have been made unusable by blizzards of comments from people who have purely political positions on matters of scientific inquiry. We find something similar in reporting on other matters of local controversy–in health care, land use, gun control, education, the environment. The result is more of a drum solo than a conversation.
I would like to see many more people commenting on matters that concern them, representing many more viewpoints, and providing more information and less opinion. But I do not control the universe (yet). So I’ll start with a few basic questions. What would encourage you to participate in a conversation at NCPR? What discourages you from participating in online conversation?