Commentopia -- The Best Readers' Comments from Top News Sources on the Web

Thousands of comments read and curated daily for the most original, insightful and informative readers' opinions from top news sites and blogs.

Few things illustrate the media revolution underway more dramatically than the notations at the foot of Huffington Post articles: “comments (2,479.)” Right-wing mega-blogs rack up equally formidable comment tallies from their audiences. Newspapers, relatively latecomers in offering website forums, host hundreds of posts daily on wide-ranging topics.

Contrast this explosion of readers' opinions with “Letters to the Editor” pages; once print media's exclusive avenue for expressing views on its content. A daily paper will select ten or so letters for publication. One yardstick of the past suggested that for every newspaper reader taking the trouble to pen a missive, ten others wanted to do so but hesitated. – Sitting at their keyboards, Huffington Post's followers typed a staggering 97,660 comments on Iran's election.

On the positive side, these forums are an invitation to engage in what the New York Times describes as “interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views.” Intelligent discussion by informed contributors can explain context, promote frank and candid debate, and sharpen public comprehension.

For print media battling to bridge the digital divide, a lively comment forum is vital to building a dynamic online community.

In June, 2009, newspaper sites attracted more than 70 million visitors, more than one-third of all Internet users, according to Nielsen Online. The average news site visitor devoted a total of 38 minutes 24 seconds during the month; Facebook users, by contrast, lingered 4 hours, 39 minutes on average. Even as newspapers debate pay-walls or micro pay-per-view options for premium content, the forums on the Wall Street Journal's subscriber-based website remain open to all comers.

The downside of comment forums is the creation of platforms hijacked by hatemongers; threads filled with outright lies and slanderous falsehoods; skewed political rants from both Left and Right; bitter diatribes and racist attacks. Such forums deteriorate to the low, vulgar level of marginalized chat-rooms of the 80s and 90s, with fair and reasonable discourse drowned out by crass insults.

Comment moderation varies from site to site, with major news organizations like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal employing staff moderators, while other sites rely on readers to flag abusive content.

Commentopia's editors scan thousands of comments daily seeking topical items of enduring interest and lasting value. The forums are the voice of the people, a free expression of opinion on stories and themes that matter to them, a contribution to collective understanding of all sides of an issue. Three key criteria guide Commentopia's curation: objectivity, credibility, and fair and balanced comment that speaks for itself.

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