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“We are just focused on being where readers are”: Pan-African weekly The Continent publishes directly on WhatsApp and Signal
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Oct. 2, 2015, 12:34 p.m.
Audience & Social

News organizations must treat reader comments with the same level of consideration that they treat their own stories, New York Times community editor Bassey Etim said today speaking on a panel at this year’s Computation + Journalism Symposium at Columbia University.

“We have to treat comments as content,” Etim said. “We can’t cede the social world to large companies.”

Etim, speaking on a panel about comment moderation and community building, discussed the Times’ attitude toward commenters and shared the results of a Times survey that asked commenters why they comment:

Only 5 percent of Times commenters said they comment on stories to actually communicate with other, and Etim said that most readers prefer the comments that Times editors choose to highlight. News organizations, he said, need to make building community around news more of a priority. (Though, of course, that’s easy for an editor from the Times to say when, unlike most news organizations, it has a full-time staff dedicated to moderating comments.)

The symposium is sponsored by Columbia’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation and it continues through Saturday. If you’re not in New York, you can follow along on Twitter using #CJ2015 or you can watch a livestream, which we’ve embedded below.

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