Not every staffer is so happy to dive in to the comments, not the least of whom is Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio, who described Gawker comments in April as “a tar pit of hell.” Any journalist writing for a highly trafficked website knows what a miserable time suck that can be. But that’s their job now. Gawker staffers are essentially professional commenters now — or maybe commenters are amateur bloggers. [Gawker boss, Nick] Denton does not even like the word “comments.” Supposedly he imposed a $5 penalty for any employee heard using the word. “These are posts,” Denton told the Observer in June.
That sound you’re hearing might be me screaming in frustration. I feel, sometimes, like my feelings towards comments mirrors comic creators’ feelings towards blogs in general, creating some kind of weird Internet hierarchy by accident, but I can’t help it; while the best comments sections can illuminate and expand the conversations and ideas coming from any particular online piece, all too often – by which I mean, “almost always” – they devolve astonishingly quickly into vitriol and ignorance, namecalling and side-taking. I genuinely wouldn’t lose that much sleep if I could remove the comments from almost every venue I write for*; seeing Denton allegedly fine people for not referring to them as posts is astonishingly depressing to me, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I feel it devalues the actual posts that the comments appear under, by suggesting that they’re the same thing, and secondly, it underscores how much of the Gawker business model is built upon essentially selling the unpaid writing from each site’s fan community, which gives me all kinds of depressed Huffington Post flashbacks.
(* Despite that, I find myself longing for comments on this blog, sometimes; it’s weird, it started as me writing in secret in public, if that makes any sense, but occasionally I find myself wanting to know who reads it.)