The Oregonian announced today that as of Jan. 2, it will no longer post online reader comments and all previous comments will be scrubbed from Oregonlive.com, the newspaper's website.
"We want to raise the quality of the conversations between our newsroom and our readers," Editor Therese Bottomly wrote in a letter to readers in Sunday's print edition. "Let's face it, the comments section can be a difficult place to have a rational conversation. Personal attacks and insults are far too common."
Other publications around the country have taken the same step. In the Northwest, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle canned comments more than two years ago, while Crosscut, a Seattle publication, just did so earlier this month.
The Oregonian, which is one of more than two dozen newspapers owned by the Newhouse family, noted that across all Newhouse papers, relatively few people read online comments and even fewer actually ever post a comment.
"Across our company's websites, which serve 50 million unique visitors in an average month, just 2,340 people produce more than half of the comments," the paper wrote in an unsigned piece, adding. "Just 3 percent of visitors to OregonLive read the comments over a three-month period last summer."
WW editor and publisher Mark Zusman says he's not ready to give up on comments.
"We still see value in some of the dialogue that takes place in our comments section," Zusman says. "That dialogue often prompts us to do more reporting."
But Zusman adds that having staff moderate comments to insure civility is increasingly demanding. "Getting rid of the hate—of which there is some—requires time and labor."