Friday, January 20, 2006

Comments turned off wrote At its inception, the purpose of this blog was to open a dialogue about this site, the events of the day, the journalism of The Washington Post Company and other related issues. Among the things that we knew would be part of that discussion would be the news and opinion coming from the pages of The Washington Post and We knew a lot of that discussion would be critical in nature. And we were fine with that. Great journalism companies need feedback from readers to stay sharp.

We just prefer comments that agree with us.
But there are things that we said we would not allow, including personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech. Because a significant number of folks who have posted in this blog have refused to follow any of those relatively simple rules, we've decided not to allow comments for the time being.
Use of profanity and hate speach clearly should not be allowed, but that can easily be handled by having comment moderation, or assigning an intern to watch the blog and delete such comments. As far as personal attacks is concerned, that depends on what you mean. If the attacks are related to what you wrote, and just say this proves you are xxxxx, they may be ok.
It's a shame that it's come to this. Transparency and reasoned debate are crucial parts of the Web culture, and it's a disappointment to us that we have not been able to maintain a civil conversation, especially about issues that people feel strongly (and differently) about.

We're not giving up on the concept of having a healthy public dialogue with our readers, but this experience shows that we need to think more carefully about how we do it. Any thoughtful feedback on that (or any other issue) is welcome, and you can send it to
If you are not going to provide open comments or a trackback feature, then it no longer is a blog.
UPDATE, 7pm: As you might expect, we're getting a ton of e-mail on this, and while I can't answer those e-mails individually, I'll address the two main points being made, that 1) we're afraid of being criticized
This is the main reason
and, 2) that were no personal attacks, profanity or hate speech in any of the comments.

On the first point, has done an awful lot to be as transparent as possible. We've started a ton of blogs, we've linked out to bloggers who are writing (often negatively) about Post content and we've made journalists from The Post and available to answer questions online on a daily basis. So I find it hard to make a case that we're unwilling to be criticized. What we're not willing to do is allow the comments area to turn into a place where it's OK to unleash vicious, name-calling attacks on anyone, whether they are Post reporters, public figures or other commenters. And that's exactly what was happening. That leads into the second complaint. The reason that people were not routinely seeing the problematic posts I mentioned were that we were trying to remove them as fast as we could in order to preserve the reasoned arguments many others were making. We removed hundreds of these posts over the past few days, and it was becoming a significant burden on us to try and keep the comments area free of profanity and name-calling. So we eventually chose to turn off comments until we can come up with a better way to handle situations like this, where we have a significant amount of people who refuse to abide by the rules we set out.

Pamela aka "Atlas" blogged What drove the leftards to eat their own?

In her Sunday column, ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote that Abramoff "had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties," prompting a wave of nasty reader postings on There were so many personal attacks that the newspaper's staff could not "keep the board clean, there was some pretty filthy stuff," and so the Post shut down comments on the blog, or Web log, said Jim Brady, executive editor of

heh. Poetic Justice......Yakkity Yak, don't talk Jack We center right bloggers can instruct the Washington Post on how to deal with infestations, we deal with it everyday.

LeftWing AmericaBlog blogged But an initial look at the deleted comments, all of which are conveniently archived by Democratic Underground, doesn't show a lot of hate speech or profanity. The only swear word I could find, for example, was "bullshit." And while some of the criticism is harsh, to be sure - hey, you're the ombudsman, get used to it - actually, some of it is rather hysterical.... The Washington Post is treading into dangerous territory here with regards to its reputation with an entire generation of pundits, opinion-makers, and readers.
Joe Liberman has seen what the Democrats can do when one of their own speaks his own mind and does not follow the day's talking points. The rabid left similarly does not like it when a newspaper they feel is in their pocket happens to tell the truth about Democrats.
It's one thing for our president to try to skew the facts and stifle debate, it's quite another for what used to be one of the nation's greatest newspapers to start showing the same immature anti-intellectual qualities.


Mike McConnell said...

Too bad. Just when you thought Deborah Howell succeeded in her mass deletion attempt do we find out that those bots worked faster than her.

Democrat Underground only have the Jan 19th comments archived while I managed to get the Jan 17th and 18th comments linked to a cache.

Don Singleton said...

Actually I dont think it was Deborah doing the deletions. It was Deborah's bosses not liking the criticism.