WASHINGTON — MinnPost is eliminating the comment section on its stories and there are plenty of good reasons for that.
Managing the comments took a team of volunteers and valuable time away from our small staff of editors. And there’s a sense that the people who comment aren’t representative of MinnPost’s broader readership.
Regardless of the reasons, I will really miss reading the questions, ideas and insights of those who took the time and effort to post a comment on my story.
I don’t live in Minnesota. I live in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., and work out of a workspace in the U.S. Capitol. So, I don’t have much contact with MinnPost readers and have thoroughly enjoyed hearing from them in our comment section.
I am kind of new to MinnPost, having become its Washington correspondent just last year. So, the comments on my stories helped me learn my beat, they helped me determine as best I can what issues Minnesotans care about and how they feel about those issues.
That information has been invaluable. For the most part, the comments have been thoughtful and intelligent, submitted by well-informed readers who care about the problems facing the nation and the state.
I’ve often had a feeling that some of those who commented on my stories knew more about the issue I wrote about than I did. Commenters have spotted typos, the bane of my existence, and sometimes pointed out weaknesses and gave me ideas for other stories. Thank you.
MinnPost commenters are also keenly aware of the strange brand of politics we have today.
When it comes to political stories, studies show that partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive than at any point in the last 20 years. That antipathy often displays itself in ugly, abusive posts on social media.
Yet those who comment on my stories have always refrained from that type of behavior. Maybe Minnesota nice?
That’s not to say there haven’t been plenty of heated exchanges between commenters. But they were (mostly) civil and, for the most part, knowledge-based.
I reached out to Dennis Tester, who has submitted hundreds of comments on MinnPost stories just in the last year, and asked why he bothers to do so. He said he is retired from a career as a management consultant and “addicted to reading the news.”
“I usually have an opinion and when given the opportunity to comment, I’m going to take it,” Tester said.
He posts some of the most controversial comments on the MinnPost site, his conservative/libertarian views often at odds with some of the site’s more liberal or progressive readers.
“I know I have unpopular opinions, but that’s okay,” he said. He views exchanges with others with different viewpoints as lively conversations, not polemic attacks. Like me, Tester has viewed the comment section as a town square of ideas.
“It’s just fun,” he said.
Meanwhile, Joel Stegner — who has written a couple hundred posts in the past year — told me he’s driven to post comments on stories for several reasons. One is that he wants to give his opinion about a particular story. Another is that he wants to help the reporter by digging into the issue himself and providing additional information.
“Really, my intent is to do what I can to improve reporting,” Stegner said.
I am finally taking my summer (incipient fall?) vacation this week. But before I headed to the beach, I wanted to thank all of you who have taken the time to read my stories and comment. I have really appreciated that.
Please continue to send me your thoughts, ideas and criticisms. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.