On the 2nd of February the American current affairs website, The Atlantic, announced that it was closing down its Disqus-based comments system in favour of a new “letters” section (ie. the publication of selected emails from readers). The editor-in-chief of the conservative magazine, Jeffrey Goldberg, claimed that the site would now feature:
…the smartest, most compelling responses to our journalism. It will be a venue for respectful dialogue, criticism, meaningful observations, and challenging ideas.
An inspiring hope to be sure. But who will decide which responses are featured? And what criteria will be used be for those decisions? These are questions of integrity and self-criticism with no easy answers, unless one is reduced to the old journalistic platitude of “trust in us”. However, Goldberg justifies the move by arguing that the existing online comments section had:
…often been hijacked by people who traffic in snark and ad hominem…
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