A recent On the Media discussion with Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic on the value of cultivating an engaging comments section is quite insightful and touches on my general attitude regarding comment moderation. Bottom line: If you’re going to have user comments, you’ve got to do it right — that is to say, you’ve got to police the comments.
Coates even goes so far to say that he would rather have no comments at all than let it turn into the wild west with an “unmoderated fray” of comments. This view is buttressed by his idea that stories and comments should not be thought of as separate items but pieces of a whole conversation. Since comments can be just as important as content, editors should care just as much about curating a thoughtful comment section as they do about their stories.
Obviously, this would be time-intensive, but the alternative seems worse. And, for what it’s worth, I think Coates has one of the best commenting communities on the web.
The On The Media discussion is worth a listen.