Most comment sections will now be closed, will spare humanity from further horror.
Anyone who spends enough time online—and if you read Torontoist, you likely do—knows that the truism “don’t read the comments” is often a useful one.
Beneath many online articles exists a fetid stew of allegedly human thought, and it is called the comments section. The occasional comments section can be insightful or witty, depending on the readers, subject matter, and outlet. But for many publications it is an intellectual and moral minefield—scroll up for personal attacks and false assertions, and scroll down for explicit bigotry and misogyny. But hey, make sure to say something—anything—in the comments! Management tells us it’s good for #brand #engagement!
Fortunately, Sun Media, which includes the Toronto Sun and has long boasted some of the worst comments in Canadian journalism, will no longer feature a comments section on most online articles.
This is a win for us all.
In a note to readers, Sun vice-president James Wallace writes:
The increasing use of Sun comment boards for anonymous, negative, even malicious personal attacks, albeit by a minority, has led us to conclude our current commenting system is not serving the interests of the majority of our readers.
Therefore we have decided, for the time being, to no longer allow commenting on most online articles until we sort out a better and more accountable way for our readers to interact with us and each other.
Like a growing number of news organizations, we are also moving away from anonymous commenting because there are other options that encourage respectful, civil debate.
Wallace adds that readers can voice their opinions through letters to the editor, as well as through social media.
The move by the Sun marks something of a trend. Earlier this month the National Post, which is owned by the same parent company as the Sun changed to a commenting system where readers are obligated to sign in with Facebook. The rationale is that if commenters must use their real name, they will be less likely to act like cretinous cranks (fingers crossed!).
In April, Xtra!—where the comments were arguably worse than the Sun—shut down their comments altogether.
Regardless of the value of online comments—we still love (most of) you, loyal Torontoist commenters—it must come as a relief to employees at understaffed publications. Because as anyone who has moderated comments can tell you, it is a thankless job that requires constant vigilance, exposes you to some of the worst elements of humanity, and has a vampiric effect on your soul. The phrase “don’t read the comments” doesn’t apply to you when your job is to read the comments, and you’re supposed to pay particular attention to the shittiest ones, which are bountiful.