How can we foster high-quality debate and discussion?

Denise Law
Jan 9, 2017 · 2 min read
Source: Pixabay

Several notable publishers, including NPR and Engadget, have turned off comments on their sites, with many focusing instead on building communities on social media.

Some argue that it is simply too difficult to foster intelligent, informative and inclusive conversations, or that it is not worth the effort — especially if the majority of comments add little to the discussions.

The problem with bad comments is that they diminish the overall experience of reading an article. Readers may feel justifiably put off, and unwilling to take part in a conversation.

A quick scan of some of the comments on economist.com might suggest that we would be wise to shut them down too. It would, after all, be an easy fix.

But we want to give comments a second chance. And we want your help!

As Ernst-Jan Pfauth at De Correspondent recently wrote:

Most people in the news industry hate comments. But that’s only because we invest too little in them. It’s like complaining about your relationship, but never being home for a good heart-to-heart.

I couldn’t agree more.

Our goal isn’t to overhaul our comments system for the sake of it. Instead, we aim to raise the quality of debate on economist.com. And to create a forum where readers feel like they are part of an intelligent Economist discussion. Imagine a heated and thought-provoking debate with friends and colleagues over coffee — that is the environment we hope to build online.

Help us to shape the future of debate on economist.com by taking our survey or leaving your suggestions below. Thank you.

Denise Law is community editor at The Economist.

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Denise Law

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Journalist-turned-product manager. A Canadian living in London via Hong Kong, Shanghai and Utrecht.

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Insights from The Economist’s digital playbook

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