Getting Rid of Comments?

Two interesting recent stories:

National Public Radio: NPR joins tide of publishers getting rid of comments

Citing an ineffective experience that was not particularly well-used, NPR on Wednesday announced that it’s getting rid of website comments in favor of other means of communication with listeners, including social media.

Catholic Herald:Why We Decided to Close Comments

The decision has been a difficult one. Readers have, over the years, offered insightful, funny and heartfelt responses to our articles. But moderating comments is a time-consuming daily task. We believe that time could be better spent on offering readers more news and analysis.

What do you think? Comment below. 🙂




  1. Really bad idea. The comments are an important exchange of ideas and a learning experience, and where we encounter the living Body, with its infinite variety of opinions. I would hate to imagine America or Commonweal or National Geographic without letters to the editor. They serve to give a topic a heartbeat.

  2. There is what might be called the Andrew Sullivan model of curated (though that word has become a clichĂ© in the online universe…like agile and robust and bespoke…) comment conversations, which is what James Fallows at the Atlantic uses, among other online essayists: people can email them in (no comment interface), and it’s up to the Blog Author (or Staff) to decide which to publish – which sometimes beget additional posts.

    The other dynamic is the social mediatisation of the Internet – the ongoing effort of content hosts to capture conversational commentary in a social network farm to make it easier to attract horse flies (that is, focused advertising).

    1. @Karl Liam Saur:
      I always preferred Sully’s approach to the rough-and-tumble unfiltered norm (particularly on YouTube, where the comments are nasty, abusive, and soul draining). The latter invariably leads to trolls dominating the conversation, even here at relatively civil PrayTell. But the former takes a lot of personnel hours, monitoring the inbox and being intellectually honest enough to air contrary opinions.

      1. @Christian Cosas:
        “and being intellectually honest enough to air contrary opinions.”

        And avoiding cherry-picking to favor your own viewpoint. The discipline comes in airing contrary opinions that you don’t have a ready refutation or response to, the ones that call into question your view. That becomes interesting.

  3. As one who enjoys reading but chooses rarely to add a comment myself, I have to say that I think it is an unfortunate, if very understandable, decision.

    I find comments that are insightful or that offer thoughtful commentary to be a real positive that is value added to the original article or post.

    That said, I don’t care at all for comments that are transparently agenda driven and that have their origin in a seeming desire to lob hand grenades at an “opposition” rather than proposing thoughts and ideas that emerge from a desire to meaningfully add to and advance a genuine and civil discussion.

    One can rather quickly perceive if the one commenting is motivated by dialogue…or is motivated by its opposite. When any sense of dialogue is absent, the utility of the comment box rapidly and precipitously declines; when the comment box becomes a weapon in the arsenals of opposing factions that are bent merely on arguing, my response is invariably to stop reading them.

    1. @Rod Hall:


      Comments offer the possibility of a dialogue. Otherwise, it is someone pontificating. We get that enough on Sundays during the homilies. 🙂

  4. Mant comment sections for online newspapers lead to back and forth insults. The anonymous comments are the worst and some people use fake identities for comments requiring Facebook identities. I admit I read them sometimes, especially the sports comments, but there are better ways to spend time.

  5. I have found the comments on PrayTell, aside from a few agenda driven comments from time to time, really informative and stimulating of good discussions. Some very knowledgeable and experienced people, with a variety of backgrounds, give their time to write excellent comments. I would be really disappointed if PrayTell dropped comments.

  6. I suspect that sites like PrayTell are protected to some extent by the narrowness of their focus and the relative low volume of their posts. Large general-reader sites like the Wall Street Journal’s or Washington Post’s sites generate magnitudes more of original content, and seem to be able to attract several hundred comments apiece to their articles. I’m sure that monitoring that volume of comment traffic is both labor-intensive and expensive.

  7. well don’t close them here. i’m no expert in liturgical matters and i come to this site for the serious and civil discussion both in the articles and in the comboxes. i think we were all better off when crux stopped taking comments, but would be poorer if praytellblog did.

  8. Like others, I learn from the scholars and others here who discuss matters in the comments section. I have found books and articles to read, I have found support when I have posted my own comments, and I have been illuminated by the give-and-take.

    Here we rarely get carried away, even when we disagree.

  9. The comments at NCR are regularly over the top. The commenters there seem to be virulently anti-church people who used to be Catholic or super orthodox Catholics pointing fingers right back at the latter. The Commonweal comm boxes are full of elite intellectuals for whom being Catholic seems to be an add on. America’s commenters are usually well balanced, but then who would go to America’s website that wasn’t well balanced. Since I’m a regular commenter here I won’t characterize the participants except to say that I usually enjoy the articles and comments. I hope that Anthony is giving no thoughts to discontinuing comments even it might be trendy to do so.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily #13:

      …who would go to America’s website that wasn’t well balanced.

      lol, me, apparently.

      But, I don’t post comments there but only lurk, so.

      Otherwise, I agree with you, Father — about NCR, about Commonweal, and about PrayTell.

  10. The newspaper people I know say they have a rule of 7. When they post an article, the first seven comments are generally useful and then after that it spirals sideways.

    I find the comments from PrayTell to be different than those of the NPR or USA today or the New York Times because this site is built for them and usual trollers that seek to railroad comment sections don’t hang around a liturgical blog and comment page. I happily do because I have no life. And I appreciate the way our editor steers us back to reality every once in a while.

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