Open Journalism refers to people being able to comment on articles. In doing so, people are able to publish and share content.

Independent Newspapers‘ owner, Dr Iqbal Surve’ put a task team together to report on Hate speech/Online comments when it comes to Open Journalism. The findings were as followed:

  1. ‘In the interests of freedom of expression, it is desirable to host online comments
  2. However, the constitutional rights of readers and members of the public should not be infringed by such comments
  3. Independent Media should develop guidelines to define unacceptable speech, which take into account legal and ethical considerations, but should not amount to censorship of differing viewpoints’.

Aaron Anderson on Moderators
Aaron Anderson on Moderators

The report highlights the advantages and disadvantages of Open Journalism.Hiring people to moderate the comments is a tedious procedure and newspapers could easily spend their money on employing a full-time journalist, not sending people into early retirement and replacing us with robots. Aaron Anderson raises a very good point about the moderator.

As journalists we strive to achieve objectivity, but that’s impossible as our background plays a role in what we might find offensive.

Radio personality and CPUT lecturer, Maxine Greeff believes the closure of the comments section on certain news articles in News24 as a good thing.

‘The news comments don’t usually deliver tip-off’s for stories, it’s normally a place for very angry people, in the News24 case especially, to vent and show their ignorance. So I’m pleased the comments section has been closed down’.

News24’s editor-in-chief, Andrew Trench announced the closure of their comments section via a post. Trench raises the same points that the Independent report found and they expressed the same concerns about what content was shared amongst users. He says that:

“Many commentators insist on pushing the boundaries of free speech available to us in South Africa. Comments tediously drift towards hate speech at worst and, at best, are often laced with prejudice,” says Trench. He goes on to say, “Interesting and considered contributions are drowned out by a cacophony of insults from a minority of users. This is not the experience we wish users to have in our home”.

The Indy report also says that:

  1. ‘It would be preferable to moderate comments prior to their publication online
  2. Online platforms should be staffed with suitably qualified personnel
  3. If effective pre-moderation cannot be undertaken for any particular reason, Independent should consider closing its comments section’.

Online comments allows the readers to engage with each other, the journalist and the newspaper publication. This allows people to give their honest opinions on what they thought about the article, what they can do to contribute to The Conversation and to give their feedback in response to the article. Unfortunately, the online trolls tend to dominate the conversation, which ultimately led to the closing down of comments sections on various online publications.

I have no problem with people imparting information that will benefit others, but when it starts to infringe on the rights of others then I believe some control should be exercised over our freedom.

This quote by E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly sums up my view on Open Journalism perfectly – “There has to be a cut-off somewhere between the freedom of expression and a graphically explicit free-for-all.”

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13 thoughts on “You have the right to not comment

  1. Great article Christine! I loved all the report information, different from the rest. Even though I don’t believe in taking away comments. I like that you mentioned there should be a balance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bravo! Kudos for airing this blight in journalism! When you use the opportunity to speak to wallpaper the world with self-important bias, that freedom should be taken away. It is unfortunate that we have lost respect for this once-informative outlet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Todd, I’m really happy you agree with me hahaha… It is really unfortunate because so many people have so much to offer but because of a few trolls, we will never hear their voices.

    But let’s not forget that the comments section is open on certain pages. Or you could write to the paper (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

    Like

  4. I enjoyed your article. I’m somewhat familiar with the whole “newspaper…free speech thing” How tired I got of papers being restricted from what they could print and publish. Even worse…people thinking the local televisions stations were actually “giving them the news.” It’s going to be more than the end of an era when the last newspaper folds.

    Liked by 1 person

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