Sunday 29 May 2022 | 12:25 | SYDNEY
Sunday 29 May 2022 | 12:25 | SYDNEY

A note on reader comments


Sam Roggeveen


27 January 2010 15:48

New readers of this site are often surprised to find that, unlike the great majority of blogs, The Interpreter doesn't have open comment threads. Instead, we encourage reader feedback via email, and we regularly publish 'reader ripostes'.

I still think the reasons for not allowing open comments, laid out here, are persuasive, and I would also agree with Patrick Appel, an editorial assistant on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, one of the most prominent blogs in the world. The Dish also prefers to direct feedback through emails, and Appel said '(i)nteracting with readers through e-mail is more personal than a comments section...Selecting e-mails allows one to turn down the vitriol and present the best arguments on both sides of a debate.'

I'm not sure a site like ours would attract much 'vitriol' even if we did have open comments, but nor do I think we're losing much by adopting the email approach. A good example of how the system can work occurred this morning, when I posted an email from a reader who added valuable context to a discussion I had started on African life expectancy. Frankly, I love it when readers contribute this way and it is critical for readers to correct our contributors when they get something wrong.

The problem is that, even as our site visits continue to slowly grow, I've noticed a drop-off in reader emails in recent months. I really can't explain it, though I found it interesting to read yesterday that, when Channel 7 interrupted an important Australian Open tennis match to screen the news, it got just 100 calls to its switchboard. It seems Australians are difficult to rouse (though of course we have a substantial international readership too).

All of this is just to encourage you to write to us via the Email button below each post. We'd love to hear from you.

Photo by Flickr user Vicki's Pics, used under a Creative Commons license.