Here's an exchange between Mike Hollihan (Main Street Journal) and the CA Reporter Gary Robinson. CA reporters are not known to add their two cents in the comment section, so this is a rare electronic interaction for people to observe. On the other hand, the Memphis Flyer staff often mud wrestles with its readers in the comment sections. I read both publications. And, I have to say that I have a lot of respect for the guy/girl covered in mud.
Posted by mikehollihan on May 22, 2009 at 1:57 a.m.
All well and good, but it sounds more like this is all about getting people to click on the CA site than about having conversations between CA reporters and editors and their reading public. Beyond the folks tasked with keeping tabs on commenters, how many of the reporters and editors actually *read* the comments about their columns and stories? I'm going to guess very few do. Wendi Thomas, for one, has flat stated she doesn't ever read comments.
Conversations are two-way things. Y'all need to participate, too. Comment threads on the CA site almost never involve CA employees talking with their readers. That needs to change. The perceived attitude of disdain and dismissal on the part of some folks there also needs to change. Dismiss enough readers and you go out of business.
There seems to be great resistance to the idea of actually dialoguing with your readers. Putting up columns saying, "We hear you" and then never talking to us more directly is wrong-headed, at the least. From my own perspective, the CA gives off a "cleric lecturing the beknighted masses" vibe, as though it's still the heyday of "Newspapers are the arbiters of the public discussion." In the Internet age, that kind of approach gets ridiculed and eventually ignored. I swear, sometimes I think the CA's folks at the top really, really don't get it.
Posted by grobinson on May 22, 2009 at 8:11 a.m.
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in response to mikehollihan
Mike, you make good points. We're still reasonably new to the comments game (our two-year anniversary is still a few weeks away) and we're still learning. There have been a few times when reporters have gotten involved in the post-story conversation, but it has happened infrequently.
Frankly, one of the drawbacks to it is the shrinking manpower in the newsroom. Everybody is being asked to do more in the same amount of time. If we go to department heads and ask them to instruct reporters to read (and respond to) comments on their stories, the response will likely be they need those reporters to be working on more stories instead. And that's a reasonable response, too. But it is a discussion that has taken place and it will again.