Sunday, September 7, 2008

Asking the Public

With the growth of technology there are more and more opportunities for people to express themselves. People are easily able to express their opinions outside of their immediate network of contacts. The mainstream media has taken a number of different approaches to make their news more user friendly an opportunities for feedback. The tough part is balancing between intelligent insightful comments that are a beneficial to all and people taking any story possible as an excuse to spout their world views. Often it is difficult to wade through the comments worth reading and the rest of the junk that clutters up the comments section.

There are 3 main Canadian news websites that I follow: CBC, CTV, The Toronto Star. Each one has taken it's own approach with different pluses and minuses.

CBC allows people to vote on which articles they like. It also allows people to vote on comments so that people can choose to read the most popular comments. They never close don't close the comment section so that some stories can reach into the hundreds and occasionally thousands of responses. The comments can be difficult to follow. They also get people bashing which ever party the story is about and condemning the CBC for their left wing bias. There was one article a few weeks ago where the comments were filled with condemnation of CBC right wing bias because the subject of the articles was not in full agreement with the Canadian perspective.

CTV allows a for limited amount of time before closing the comment section. Just like CBC they still get their biased political slander. Although their slant is slightly to the right of the CBC and so are their readers. They do not open comments on every single story. This helps avoid the moderating headache when covering extremely controversial issues.

The Toronto Star has an excellent system for allow user feedback. As a newspaper they already have an opinions section where people can write in. Either by design or amount of people commenting they have a limited number of comments. A higher rate of their comments tend to be well thought out contribute to public discourse. They also allow people to agree or disagree with the particular post. This allows people to get a better appreciation of how many people have read a comment and how people feel.

With an election call just hours away hopefully all of the different media will be able to use their services to improve the public discourse. Only an election determined on true public discourse will provide the types of results Canadians are looking for.

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