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April 20, 2018, 10:46 a.m.
Audience & Social

Oh, comments sections. We’ve killed you, restricted you, automated you, tried to engage with you, and you’ve even withered on your own. For many journalists, it’s a love-hate relationship, but the Coral Project’s new guide to engaging with commenters might inspire some hope.

Reminder: commenters apparently want journalists and experts to chime in in the comments section, according to a survey earlier this year from readers across 20 U.S. news organizations. Eighty-one percent said they wanted reporters to clarify factual questions in the comments section, and 58 percent welcomed active contributions from journalists in the comments section. (WAN-IFRA has stats on news organizations’ commenting systems around the world in its 2016 report.)

So, how do you do it productively? The Coral Project’s resource-plenty guide focuses on improving the quality of the comments through a moderator’s presence, building relationships for increased trust in your work, creating a loyal audience, and sourcing new story ideas and connections. (The guide links to lots of evidence and tips on those points as well, if you need proof to show the higher-ups or just convince yourself.)

Their top-line checklist (get a printable PDF here!):

How to engage in the comments

— Respond to genuine questions

— Encourage good behavior

— Thank people for useful contributions

— Highlight great comments and discussions

— Listen out for potential new stories

— Report/remove offensive comments

— Model the behavior you want to see

— Step away and reach out for help if you feel stressed

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Just showing our work isn’t enough
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Let’s talk about power (yours)
“If we don’t use it in ways that give people quality news, useful information and power, people will find a way around us.”
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“Local news organizations should become a driving force for better online public discourse, because Facebook and Twitter aren’t cutting it.”