Reading newspapers online has a major advantage – you get to see the comments from all kinds of people in response to the items covered.
What may not be such an advantage is that some of what you read in the comments is incredibly inflammatory, sometimes downright rude and offensive.
I have read on more than one occasion just in the last couple of weeks comments which suggest that people who disagree with the writer of the comment should be strung up, killed, or harmed in some other way.
Other comments are rude about either the author of the article or other people, commenting on their personal appearance and not focusing on the issues behind the story. And that’s just in some of the broadsheets such as the Guardian and the Independent.
It’s hard to know how to respond to that. In response to my e-mailed question to the Independent about some particularly objectionable comments, they said, understandably, that they didn’t have the resources to monitor all the comments and to remove offensive content pro-actively.
But those papers I have been reading lately all provide the opportunity to report offensive material and get it removed. It is important to make use of this facility in order to support rational debate.
The other thing that is worth thinking about is transparency and openness. I comment under my name and with my picture attached on all of the newspaper sites that I read. Most people use handles that give no clue as to who they are. Why don’t more people have the courage of their conviction and put their name to what they have to say.