Commenting on the News, On the News

Here in Denver, I’ve noticed that the local TV news stations are broadcasting comments that viewers e-mail in (printing them on-screen) regarding news stories – showing viewers’ reactions to a particular news event. They used to do this a little (primarily on Sundays, a very slow news day) by printing viewers’ comments (or replaying their recorded telephone calls) regarding coverage, but this is going a (very large, IMHO) step further by sharing viewers’ perspectives on world, national, and local events.

Simultaneously, it seems that the printed newspapers (Denver at the moment has two major dailies) are doing the same: reprinting commentary content from readers culled from their Web sites or e-mailed to the paper.

This bothers me a little (and it bothers Mrs. Urquhart a lot: “Who gives a shit?” she quoth quite loudly last night when one of the TV stations displayed viewers’ e-mailed reactions to the hiring of the new Denver Broncos coach). As Mrs. Urquhart said (in fewer but more effective words), why should I care what someone else thinks about a particular news situation? It’s much different from printing letters to the editor in a paper, which are verified by newspaper staff to be written by real people who can’t ultimately hide behind the anonymity of an e-mail address. For the same reason, it’s different than the “man-on-the-street” TV interviews of old – that person couldn’t just say anything they wanted and expect to get away with it.

I want to know someone’s opinion on a topic, I’ll read the Letters to the Editor section, or I’ll read a message board, or I’ll listen to talk radio (well, not really). If I want to watch the news or read the newspaper, I’d like the content of that communication to be filled with news – not an anonymous person’s inane feelings about the news.

I know that both TV news and newspapers are desperate for viewers and readers, and they’re looking to create a more interactive experience (and I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that local TV news is anything but “news”). My questions: are other stations and newspapers doing this in other markets, and does it bother you?

I can’t answer your question because I am in the Denver market as well, but I thought I’d say this - Reading the comments to an article in an online newspaper can often be much better that the article itself.

First, the commenters are self selected - they are people who read newspapers, which eliminates most of the morons. Second, there are often people commenting who understand the issue much better than the reporter and can bring a better insight.

I think it is a great trend, and I hope newspapers can figure out a way to make some money off their websites before they all go under.

I noticed that local stations did this quite a bit during the Clinton impeachment trial, but then tapered off afterwards. They would show viewers’ opinions on news stories other than the Clinton impeachment, BTW.

I always thought it was ridiculous. To me, the least relevant aspect of any news story is what some random stranger thinks about it.