Yesterday, we wrote an innocent item about lightning striking The New York Times building the day after the company’s new CEO was announced. It was our own fun little way of checking in on the narrative of the Times‘s new leadership, just a little honey to make the media news medicine of recent bureaucratic shifts at the Times go down easier (not that the drama at the top of the Times really even needs that).
Somehow, it ended up on the Drudge Report. As is wont to happen whenever one gets ordained with a link from Matt Drudge, an influx of viewers came shooting our way. As did, of course, some new commenters.
The Observer doesn’t moderate comments, so (possibly with the exception of explicit death threats), our readers are free to write what they like.
This particular instance—in which a bunch of people who had likely never visited this website prior to yesterday arrived here en masse—is a wonderful study of how a mob of commenters can possibly shift the appearance of a piece based on the documented conversation alone.
It’s also, for lack of a better word, enlightening (pun absolutely unintended) to see what readers of one of the most visited landing pages and traffic fire-hoses on the entire internet happen to think of one of the most—if not the most—famous newspaper in the world.
For example, a fellow who goes by “Obama_Dogeater” wishes yesterday’s lightning strike went a different way:
But that would hurt some very nice people, would it not? Thirteen people who upvoted that comment don’t think so. One person thinks “the media Pharaohs down at the Gray Lady” got off easy:
Let my Paul Krugman go, kind of? If they think the Times are “media Pharaohs,” one has to wonder how they’d react to to finding out about Content Farming. Then there’s this trio:
In addition to everything else Judith Miller did incorrectly, she also “[made] the baby Jesus cry.” Actions have consequences! Unfortunately, even if something is crying, it’s not because the New York Times has something against the Jewish faith, seeing as how the (Sulzberger) family who’s owned the paper for quite some time is definitely Jewish.
Also, you should know, there’s precedent for this kind of thing:
We’ve heard Times holiday parties can get a little wacky, but if they’re Sodom and Gomorrah-type shindigs, we’ve obviously been missing out on covering something important.
Here, we see the prevalent influence of BuzzFeed keep spreading:
Finally, because we used the cover from Metallica’s seminal 1984 album Ride the Lightning as the “art” on yesterday’s post, someone let us know that they would rather not have their peanut-butter love of aging soft-metal rockers mixed with their chocolate hatred of world-renowned God-spiting newspapers:
If someone thinks Ride the Lightning is Metallica’s “masterpiece” they’ve clearly never given Master of Puppets enough listens (it is also, for those of the demonstrated persuasion, probably the more appropriate soundtrack to hate the New York Times to). Also, the Times‘s coverage of Metallica is exceptional (may we suggest Ben Ratliff’s 2008 profile of the band, ‘Some Kind of Refined Monster‘).
All of this goes to prompt some questions, at least from this writer: First, can a comments section without moderation dramatically alter the neutral purview of whatever’s above it? Can it negatively affect an objective, unfamiliar reader’s interpretation of a piece? Finally, if the answer to either of those questions is “Yes,” and a policy on comment moderation is to go unchanged, is it really worth getting a link from the Drudge Report (and the influx of traffic it brings) to begin with? Or is it simply not worth biting the hand that links you?
We’d love to hear your thoughts. You’re more than welcome to put them in the comments.
email@example.com | @weareyourfek