As social media advances, audience participation is increasingly popular for various media outlets.
At popsci.com, the team decided to shut down the ability to comment on articles. As the URL suggests, the website is directed at popular science issues.
Media outlets are facing the same issues; commentators make a huge impact on other viewers’ opinion. The question is whether or not that is helpful or hurtful to journalism.
Commentary is essential to journalism. As people who are informing the public, it is important to hear the public’s opinion.
In the case of popsci.com, I feel they have some leeway in this instance. Not everyone has the proper knowledge to be commenting on a science article. They may misinform the audience, and thus spread wrong information.
Popsci.com explains their decision in an article on their website: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-09/why-were-shutting-our-comments.
In most cases, however, commentary is very important. It can tell the media what the audience wants to learn about; it can help expose gaps in reporting; it can create conversation about the topic.
If journalists have the technology to be able to have these affects, it is vital to utilize them. As social media advances, so should online conversation about media.
Conversation is very important to journalism because conversation can create change. When a social issue arises and a journalist reports on it, a conversation amongst the audience can help spread the issue and create the necessary change.
It is also important to have audience ask questions. A reporter can become too close to their story and possibly leave out information that the audience may not know.
Being able to step back and answer questions can help improve the quality of the story.
Journalists serve the public. Hearing the opinions of the people that are being served is important to the quality of the journalism.
Facebook, twitter, and other social media sites advance this conversation and make it possible to close the break between journalists and the one they serve.
The gap between journalists and their audience previously hurt the overall ability to report affectively. Now with the new technology, that gap is inexcusable.
While I feel popsci.com did not make a detrimental decision, I do feel it is very important that media outlets, news especially, keep an open forum for conversation.