Blogs > Frye on the News

Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Web problem leads to debate over politics and paywalls

We had a small problem with the website, with a virus causing a few headaches. (Maybe more, but I only heard of one.)
It's been fixed, but what's neat is that the story about the issue generated debate over the left-versus-right leaning nature of the paper as well as paywalls.
Let's the bring the debate to my blog.
Fire away!

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Anonymous Bill said...

Apparently the Comment Commandos no longer want a piece of you so I'll throw in my two cents.

I don't see a left or right bias in your online paper. What I do see is an occasional tendency to pander to what you (the paper) believe is the "populist" viewpoint. I find that annoying, but I don't believe it rises to the standard of yellow journalism practiced in past decades in this country as one of your commenters suggested (my words, not his). That sort of bias is less prevalent today because readers are better educated and more politically savvy than in past years. You do have one reporter in particular who seems to have an axe to grind with some public figures in Oakland County, but I don't believe that is politically motivated, and I don't think that that is a reason to condemn the paper as a whole.

I think a paywall would be a mistake in your case. You have a pretty good thing going right now due to the way Google disseminates information and a paywall would negate any geographic advantage you have as far as website hits are concerned. Publications with unique content may benefit from a paywall, but the OP wouldn't. A niche-specific tech magazine or the WSJ may benefit from a paywall but you won't because I can find other media outlets that cover the same things you do.

One commenter mentioned censorship. I've read your paper for a long time, and at least as far as your comments sections are concerned, I have to agree with him/her. I don't think you (the paper) practice censorship on a regular basis, but in my opinion you most definitely do as far as the previously mentioned "populist" stories are concerned. I'm not saying that you (the paper) are doing that on purpose, but it is quite clear that standards are not always equally applied. In fairness,I rarely see that sort of slant in your actual news stories, and that is what's important.

May 10, 2010 at 6:45 AM 
Blogger Stephen Frye said...

Thanks Bill, especially for commenting on not seeing a slant in the news stories. Too often people want to find a slant, and perhaps that's the future of news, judging it before reading/seeing it.

As for comments, we provide an open forum for the community to use to create discussions/conversations. With hundreds of comments coming in each day, we rely on the community to police itself, primarily with the REPORT ABUSE button. As such, the censorship is us removing comments others have reported. We don't automatically delete them; they are reviewed. But often, they are deleted due to a variety of reasons, often because of the confrontational tone.

We continuously review our policies on the comments, and I look forward to the development of new tools that will improve these. I know the community wants to be part of the story, part of the conversation. It's our job to improve the conversation. Now, it's too negative and often juvenile. I am eager for something that will rank the quality comments and place them higher, perhaps allowing the users to vote (or approve) comments they like. Like anything in business, the better ideas or thoughts will rise to the top.

As for the paywall, I believe that is dead. If journalists want to nickel and dime their way through, they could go with micropayment idea down the road, but that will be a surrender. Only a name like the Wall Street Journal could rely on the paywall, and that's because people who get those subscriptions bill them to their workplace, so it's easy to bill the online subscription as well.

Thanks again Bill for sharing your thoughts.

May 10, 2010 at 7:45 AM 

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