For the next two months, we are turning off the comment function on all editorials, columns and letters in the opinion section.
If you’ve watched many of the talking heads on cable television try to discuss the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, you know what we’re talking about. Unfortunately, sometimes comments on newspaper stories and columns have a similar effect.
In fact, it has a name: “The nasty effect.”
That’s what University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers Dominique Brossard and Dietram Scheufele dubbed the negative effect certain comments can have on a reader’s understanding.
In their study, published last year, researchers concluded that “Much in the same way that watching uncivil politicians argue on television causes polarization among individuals, impolite and incensed blog comments can polarize online users.” In some cases, negative blog comments actually changed readers’ perception of what they read, not just their opinions about it. …
We intend to use our opinion pages to help the St. Louis region have a meaningful discussion about race. So we are going to turn off the comments in the editorial section for a while, and see what we learn from it.