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Too Much Information?



When it comes to comments posted online, how much feedback is too much?

For the Washington Post, the breaking point came after ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote a column saying Democrats also took money from diosgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The newspaper's blog on newsroom matters was promptly drowned in comments from posters who felt she had taken an inaccurate swipe at the Dems -- turns out, she simply should have said Abramoff "directed" his clients to give money to Democrats, for which there is ample proof.

But the commentary didn't slack off or get any nicer -- boy, can I sympathize -- and at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, site editors shut down the comments section to that blog, because they were spending so much time editing comments.

I feel for Howell, who I spoke to briefly last week while researching another article. Only in the ombudsman's chair since October, she still seems to be feeling out her approach to the job (I called her for comment on a story, she initially declined, then changed her mind too late for inclusion in my piece). And everyone who contributes to blogs knows there are some commenters who won't see reason or communicate cordially.

Still, I think is a mistake to shut down the comments. As regular readers of this space know, I haven't removed any comments yet -- no matter how insulting or offensive I think they may be -- because I think the communication should be free as possible. Obviously, any hardcore profanity or totally corrosive commentary might be removed, but the whole point of this space is to allow posters some freedom to respond to my work and the newspaper's work.

I think shutting down the comments totally, even given their understandable explanation for doing so, subverts the very reason for the forum in the first place. As I noted in an earlier piece, being open with readers is a lot tougher than it seems.

One More Media Blog

As if the world needs a new media blog, PBS has created a space for Mark Glaser, former columnist for the USC Annenberg School of Communication's Online Journalism Review, dubbed MediaShift. It's supposed to be a space examining how new forms of digital media are changing our lives.

So far, there's a general section with a couple of essays by Glaser, a Top 5 listing of technology trends that won't leave us alone (Google and Howard Stern are on the first list) and a your take question inviting reader feedback (the first question: What video would you watch on a small, portable screen?)

Glaser promises a podcast and video and more stuff to come. While I find it an appropriately ironic commentary on modern media culture that someone considered an expert on blogs hasn't actually written one until now, I still welcome Glaser to the blogosphere. I'm sure he'll have a lot more fun than Deb Howell.

HD Radio Coming Soon -- Everywhere But Tampa

Despite the fact that it's based in Orlando, the HD Radio Alliance has mostly ignored Florida in its list of 28 markets that will feature HD radio broadcasts developed by the consortium. A collective of 12 or so radio stations owners aligned to develop new programming and outlets for HD Radio, the alliance revealed Wednesday a list of 28 stations which will feature HD Radio broadcasts over the next few days, from New York's first country station to punk.

The closest station is in Miami (public radio station WUSF in Tampa already broadcasts its own HD signal); HD Radio is a form of digital broadcasting which allows radio stations to multicast -- broadcasting many different streams of content. Spooked by satellite radio's cornucopia of choices, the radio industry is working hard to develop HD Radio as an alternative.

What they should do is develop a cheaper receiver -- at $400 a pop, the special HD-capable radios are too pricey for most to consider for access to a limited number of radio streams usually available online.

New Refrigerator at Today

I guess my pointless assault on the Today's show bore fruit. Perky billionaire anchor Katie Couric announced this morning that they are junking the duct-tape festooned, 10-year-old refrigerator that was featured in their recent behind the scenes report. Of course, NBC is owned by GE, which sent over one of its deluxe refrigerators after seeing the report. God forbid, Couric, Matt Lauer, Al Roker or any of the other overpaid on air talent would chip in to buy a decent fridge for their support staff.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:35pm]


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