By:
February 1, 2021

The Philadelphia Inquirer announced today that it will remove reader comments from most stories posted on Inquirer.com.

The big reason?

“Commenting on Inquirer.com was long ago hijacked by a small group of trolls who traffic in racism, misogyny, and homophobia,” the paper wrote. “This group comprises a tiny fraction of the Inquirer.com audience. But its impact is disproportionate and enduring.”

The Inquirer claims only 2% of Inquirer.com visitors read the comments and even fewer post comments. After more than a decade of trying to monitor and improve the comments section, the Inquirer has decided to scrap the comments, except for sports stories and Inquirer Live events.

Readers will still be able to converse with the Inquirer through letters to the editor and social media. The Inquirer says it is “working on building new two-way connections with our existing audience and with new audiences we hope to reach.”

The Inquirer said it required 24-hour vigilance to stay on top of the comments, adding, “We’d rather invest in vital local journalism than an endless and expensive game of comment whack-a-mole.”

And the Inquirer said this isn’t just an effort to shut down criticism or violate anyone’s First Amendment rights.

It wrote, “The Inquirer embraces diverse points of view, relevant criticism of our work, and robust debate. Some comment threads include those elements. Most do not. The First Amendment limits the government’s ability to regulate speech. It does not require news organizations to treat all speech as equal, or to provide an open forum for comments. Rather, the First Amendment ensures The Inquirer’s right to publish what The Inquirer chooses to publish.”

The Inquirer isn’t the first news outlet to eliminate the comments section. Others who have include NPR, The Atlantic and NJ.com.

Interestingly, the Inquirer announced it was closing comments in a story that was posted at 5:15 a.m. on Monday. By noon, the story had more than 500 comments.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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  • Quite an unfortunate choice on the Inquirer’s part. There were certainly offensive posts from both a conservative and a liberal perspective. The liberal trolls were overwhelming in frequency; I’ve always suspected bots or paid trolls on that side.
    The comments did serve to call out the adolescent reporting and the blatant liberal bias on the newspaper that has become even more extreme. I will be cancelling my subscription after 10 years inside the paywall and 50 plus years of reading. The newspaper is circling the drain journalistically and financially. Soros or Lenfest type subsidies are the only thing that could sustain it.