When user comments were rolled out on several media sites they were heralded as the next logical evolution of user/news interaction. Not only could the average citizen now read a news story, but they could weigh in and rationally discuss things with other citizens which would, it was theorized, lead to a more personal, interactive experience with the news.
Now that we've seen the experiment, it's time to say that it's failed and just move on.
The sad fact is, the average Internet commenter, posting behind a shield of anonymity, has devolved into a low-rent shock jock or semi-literate partisan ram-rod who's inability to avoid a logical fallacy is rivaled only by their ability to bungle the English language. If you don't believe me then take a look at the comment strings from these stories:
Al Sharpton's long bill of goods, from Tawana Brawley to Prime Time, Stuart Stevens, The Daily Beast
Wal-Mart to speed it's delivery of produce to stores. Nancy Sarnoff, Chron.com
Commentary: Queen Michelle is dead, long live Ted Cruz, King of the Tea Party. Jason Stanford, Chron.com
Granted, the third link is a little hard because what Jason Stanford managed to do there was take one long, rambling essay on the intellectual level of an Internet anonymous comment and convince the Chron's staff it was worthy as running as news. Given content of that quality it's not fair to expect the readers to respond any other way but in kind. In the race to the bottom, Chron.com has not only taken the lead, their editors are pulling a Ronnie Turcotte and turning around in deep stretch to see just how far back the competition has fallen.
It's time to end this experiment in citizen commentary, to shutter comments and re-hire serious reader reps who will do a better job answering reader questions. There's news that the Chron is already moving this way, stopping the practice of paying certain free-lancers for content on "reader" blogs. And this is a good thing.
An even better thing would be ridding the world of these comments sections. Until they do however I'm just going to stop reading them.