Continuing the discussion from Articles on Comment sections:
Trolling is a problem, and civil comments ™ are surly doing a good job getting rid off it. But what happens after the trolls are gone? I will tell you. I can tell you, because I have been part of the nearly zero troll community of Krautreporter. After the troll is gone the commenters start demanding attention from the editors. Which is in many ways far worse for the common editor than the trolling problem, because of two reasons: resources and criticism.
Full disclosure: I do not work in journalism, I am not even a experienced commenter (I do comments for around a year now). So maybe I do not see the whole picture here and resources and criticism are not really big issues of the comment section. Also, English is not my native language, so please excuse my writing. Please PM me for grammar or spelling.
From the perspective of a newspaper’s manager the phrase “don’t read the comments” will remain after the trolling problem is gone, because she cannot afford her staff to argue in the comment section. No newspaper has the resources to let editors debate for hours with the commenters, even if the discussions are fair and reasonable.
As I stated here, I suspect that editors are not willing to debate a conflict of opinion in public. Not with another editor and not with the commenters. Jennifer Brandel makes the case that editors should engage with the readers before they write an article, because in that state editor and the reader share a common goal: find out about something. And she is right. In comment section editor and commenter do not share a common goal. The editor has already delivered and wants to go on, the commenter has just received and wants to debate. The same problem exists in many professions: physician & patient, writer & critic, web developer & newspaper publisher . It is a common thing, nobody likes their work critized. That is why they usually communicate via intermediaries, like lawyers, customer support or in our case community/engagement manager.
If both problems are real and we still want a debate between editor and commenter, we need a mechanism to (#1) force the editor into a debate that (#2) does not take forever. My solution would be a voting system to promote a commenter, who is then authorized to have a public discussion with the editor. The main thesis of this discussion may also be publicly decided. Maybe the commenter should candidate with a certain thesis for the voting procedure.
This solution might be good compromise between the editor’s resources and the commenter’s right to hold the editor accountable. Also, the editor cannot avoid a deep discussion by selecting the comments worthy of her attention (like in an AMA). Last but not least, this solution would be an incentive for quality argumentation, because commenters have to demonstrate good argumentation skills to get elected (not quite like, but similar to Reddit CMV).