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What Comedian Paul Mooney Might Say About Killing the “Comments” Section


by Jerome Weeks 23 Apr 2009

People like Quick humorist Gordon Keith continue to expound on D magazine’s decision to shut off (for now) the comments on the FrontBurner blog. Elaine Liner at Theater Jones has explained why she, as a critic, doesn’t take to publishing comments from people. Our A&S editor, Anne Bothwell, has reiterated our own enlightened, welcoming-but-moderating policy […]

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People like Quick humorist Gordon Keith continue to expound on D magazine’s decision to shut off (for now) the comments on the FrontBurner blog. Elaine Liner at Theater Jones has explained why she, as a critic, doesn’t take to publishing comments from people. Our A&S editor, Anne Bothwell, has reiterated our own enlightened, welcoming-but-moderating policy concerning readers’ comments.

So here’s my three cents. Years ago, I was on a public panel that was introduced by an op-ed columnist who pleaded for any audience questions and comments to be expressed in a respectful manner. We all applauded — who could argue with such a request? I, for one, like to keep my public panels and my bar fights separate.

But it did make me wonder why the columnist ever got into the op-ed business. Has it ever really been possible in a democracy — even before the internet — to criticize people, tell them their deeply held politics and practices were wrong yet somehow remain above the fray? I’ve been a big-city arts critic of some kind for 25 years. I thought catching flak came with the job.

But Monday night at the Lodge, when Paul Mooney taped a cable TV special, he had — as many good comedians do — the perfect squelcher when some backtalk erupted. Not that I agree with his stand, of course, but it is a good line.

“See now,” he said. “I blame Oprah for this. She made people think they were important.”

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  • Gini Mascorro

    Sigh. I loves me some Paul Mooney – and love him even more after seeing that quote…

  • Thanks for the shout-out, Jerome! I don’t mind feedback. Welcome it, in fact. But not when it’s shouted, written in all caps or cloaked in anonymity. (I have a byline on my reviews.) I think TheaterJones is going to opt for a “Reader Reviews” section instead of open or unsigned reader comments. We want to interact with readers, but don’t want to play referee/editor with the dunderheads.

    • I understand, and I understand perfectly why KERA wants to moderate readers’ comments. It’s actually a rarity on the web to have an open conversation without the bilious and the axe-grinders ruining things. This is one feature that contributors consistently admire about NPR and PBS — keeping the discussion intelligent and above the spittle level.

      But for many media organizations, there’s also the real-life danger of libel suits prompted by some poster’s slur or allegation. Self-employed bloggers may have less fear of this because, well, they generally don’t have enough money to make the plaintiff’s lawyer’s fees worthwhile, although there are people, I’m sure, who’d find the sheer punitive effect of a lawsuit as attractive as any possible monetary gain.

      But in the end, I’ve come to think the shouters and the dunderheads tend to indict themselves with their own words. Just as any bad writer or critic does.

  • The PRI podcast of Sound of Young America did a program where three successful online developers talked about the issues of, and dealing with community comments.

    http://www.maximumfun.org/blog/2009/03/merlin-mann-bros-chaps-jeff-olsen-of.html

    The more successful you are, the more weird comments you will get. The trick is to find a way to turn them into something positive and useful.

    Brad