Readers will no longer be able to comment on stories on the National Journal's website, eliminating what its editor calls "ad hominem attacks" that cheapen debate.
"For every smart argument, there's a round of ad hominem attacks, not just fierce partisan feuding, but the worst kind of abusive, racist, and sexist name-calling imaginable," said Editor Tim Grieve in explaining the decision
Grieve said the Journal believes trustworthy information leads to wiser decisions in the national interest, but such principles don't always apply in the comments section.
"The debate isn't joined," said Grieve. "It's cheapened, it's debased." Further, he points out, an article by Journal writer Brian Resnick
that found that researchers have discovered that website comment sections leave readers "feeling even more polarized and less willing to listen to opposing views."
The comments sections will stay open to registered members of the Journal, he said, and the publication's reporters and editors will remain active and accessible on Twitter and by email. Further, commenting will be open sometimes for certain stories.
Several other major websites have done the same thing. Popular Science, which banned comments last year
pointing to a Mother Jones study
that suggested an antagonistic comments section negatively affected how readers perceive an article.
Dietram Scheufele, a professor of science communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who co-authored a study about webpage comment sections, told Mother Jones that when commenters have strong emotions, the polarizing effect of their insults may be even stronger.
Before the Internet, Scheufele said, articles were consumed in context of other articles. But now, comment sections make reading news online like "reading the news article in the middle of the town square, with people screaming in my ear what I should believe about it."
Some publications, such as The New York Times, monitor comments, but others don't have that capability.
“We’d rather put our resources into the journalism that brings readers to National Journal in the first place,” Grieve said. “We think there are better ways to foster the dialogue we all want."
Some sites, such as The Huffington Post and The Washington Post, require commenters to sign in through Facebook.
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