Why did the Las Vegas newspaper turn off the comments from readers?

On newspaper's Facebook page

On newspaper’s Facebook page

Abruptly on Thursday the Las Vegas Review-Journal turned off the comments underneath its online content.

At this time there are still links to “comments” atop every story, but at the bottom the reader is told both how to post a comment and why the newspaper is not posting comments:

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.

Due to an increase in uncivil behavior and dialogue the Review-Journal has temporarily disabled the comment boards. The Review-Journal will use the time to evaluate the effectiveness of the comment boards and find an appropriate time to reintroduce them to reviewjournal.com.

I wager this sudden decision is due to one of two things — threat of litigation or someone posted something that someone high up in the chain of command got really, really pissed off about.
Of course this will slash the online hit count, which goes up when people get in a dialog or debate and keep returning to the page see what is subsequently posted.
The curious thing is that the paper apparently posted a lengthy explanation of its decision at something called media.com, but the only link to it I could find was in twitter feeds by its reporters.
It is under the headline: “Why we turned off the comment boards today; Nowhere does the First Amendment require the media to provide a platform for your speech.” It is posted on the paper’s Facebook page, which I did not know existed.

We’re turning off our comment boards.

Not permanently, probably. But Internet comment boards are often nasty, vitriolic places, and ours are no exception.

The same platform that provides an opportunity for civil dialogue and an exchange of ideas also provides a platform for racism, bigotry and hatred. Those aren’t the types of conversations we want to host on our website. Consider this a cooling off period for those who wish only to inspire fear in others.

We don’t pretend to know the solution to the problem. How do we foster a sense of community and encourage people to express themselves without simply providing a way to amplify hateful and often threatening remarks?

We’ve taken steps in recent months to clean up our comment boards, including shortening the amount of time they remain open and requiring a verified email address before users can post.

It hasn’t helped. Of our tens of thousands of comments a month, many are insightful and respectful. But those that are not threaten to pull us down to their level, since they refuse to be brought up to ours. We have zero tolerance for threats of violence or death. Libel, too, is out of bounds, and yet we regularly find ourselves deleting such comments from stories about government officials.

The reality is that there are simply not enough resources to effectively moderate every story on our site, especially when high-profile stories can rack up hundreds of comments over the course of a few minutes, many that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. We are not unique in this. In an age of ever-leaner newsrooms, not many are in a situation to pull from elsewhere to keep hate-mongers at bay.

We aren’t asking our commenters to agree with every story we post or with every commenter who came before them. But we cannot ignore that certain comments and behaviors on our site make people feel unwelcome, not because they offer a differing viewpoint but because they’re violent, threatening or sexually explicit.

So, we’re turning our comment boards off, at least for a while.

We have made no promises in the past to guarantee the ability to comment on our site. In fact, our decision to turn them off falls in line with the reasons we chose to provide them in the first place. Commenting is a privilege that is too often abused, and turning off comment boards in no way violates readers’ First Amendment protection.

The First Amendment protects us from, among other things, laws that abridge our freedom of speech. Nowhere does it require the media to provide you a platform for that speech, whether hateful or not.

Through the duration of this experiment, we will continue to encourage our community to engage in a civil dialogue on social media. For our part, we’ll use this time to evaluate the effectiveness of our comment boards and other available options to us as we continue to adapt to an ever-changing media landscape.

It is unsigned, but an attorney probably wrote it.
Of course the paper is in no way obligated to provide a soap box for every idiot who comes along, but those idiots count as hits online and help to increase the value of advertising there. The shrinking newsroom also can’t keep up with the idiots. I’m sure it was time consuming reacting to requests to delete comments.
Maybe someone said something unkind about the newspaper’s suitor Warren Buffett.
If someone writes graffiti on your wall are you obligated to paint over it?
By the way, the Las Vegas Sun website still allows comments, but hardly anyone bothers. Many stories list zero comments.
Is the R-J being timid? Yep.

10 comments on “Why did the Las Vegas newspaper turn off the comments from readers?

  1. agent provocateur says:

    Reblogged this on Nevada State Personnel Watch.

  2. Steve says:

    A couple weeks ago I posted on this blog that I terminated my Disqus account because the RJ blogs had be come little more than a kindergarten whine fest. Literally, there was nothing worth reading or replying to anymore and the journalists seemed to have given up any pretense of actually reading and/or replying to any of the comments.
    I say they should make links to that FB page and let the comments post to it. Being actually on the FB server would make it easier to ban the fakers.

  3. Pale Rider says:

    What a disappointment that the New RJ turned off Comments. I guess posters could see it coming with the current flagging that was taking place. I just renewed my long time subscription also. Since Tom and Sherm left, the New RJ, has become more liberal and now we see how liberals act. A sad day for Nevaduh!

  4. Athos says:

    If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen! Free press, indeed!

  5. Winston Smith says:

    I recently posted on the RJ that Paddington Bear is gay. I wonder if that was the last straw?

  6. Steve says:

    They get comments on their FaceBook page…

  7. Patrick says:

    Laughable that someone notorious for doing the same thing while nominally employed by the RJ, attacks the publication for doing it. How many times did we hear Cowboy hat here respond that he was all for freedom of speech but that “he” didn’t have to provide a forum for people that disagreed with him? Oh, and nice comment board here Tom.

  8. Unfortunately the RJ has struggled with the comment boards for four years now…and obviously disqus wasn’t the solution. IMHO a few bad apples (from each side of the aisle) and a few out of state trolls ruined it for everyone. The LV Sun doesn’t seem to have a problem with it’s comment board…go figure.

  9. Steve says:

    The Sun doesn’t have any readers.
    Nice to see you here Brien!

  10. ineedacupcake says:

    Kind of in line with what PaleRider said above, I also find frustration in the fact that kxnt radio (a cbs affiliate) in just the last few months (right after mid terms incidentally) axed Kevin Wall and Mark Levin, with horrible replacements, and now no longer airs Hannity. Is there something in the water or is the Valleys media trying to block Conservative views and conversations? Wtf?

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