a smart-alec
The horror of comments
Adam Smith
339

Without wishing to “rip apart” your story or claim it’s “all wrong,” etc., I think it may be worth pointing out that not quite everything in your essay has been checked. The standard spelling of this term is “smart aleck” (with or without a hyphen), and farther down, I believe you meant “may seem at odds” rather than “may seen…” These things don’t concern me much; a majority of my work is as a copy editor, which means not that I live for a chance to pounce on someone’s typo but rather that I’ve learned how hard it is to get everything right. I too make mistakes—I miss things in other people’s work and find errors in my own. Thus a bit of modesty with regard to what we’re about—whether it’s mere spelling or facts and ideas—is always in order.

It may be difficult to convey modesty within The Economist’s writing (or in any other), unless it’s by avoiding absolutist, unsupported declarations, whereas authority and expertise readily make themselves apparent. These thoughts have very little to do with the issue of whether and how to allow comments, but it’s just possible that something like moderated comments and a method for readers to report possible abuse would, among other things, help to convey that note of modesty. For that matter, even the current system on The Economist’s website does that, in my experience (I’m a digital subscriber, in case that matters). The mere fact that someone can propose a correction, an alternative view, or a further dimension has some value whether or not we believe the writer ever looks at readers’ remarks. As for comments to Economist posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, I rarely see those posts, don’t know whether you have any control over commenting, and doubt (to judge from your final paragraphs) that those are what you’re asking us to consider.