Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell did a hit job in her column today on the Post’s decision to allow comments on all articles. Here are the first few paragraphs, which pretty clearly demonstrate her attitude:

Not so long ago, the only way to talk back to The Post was to write a civil letter to the editor, with a verifiable name and address, or to contact the ombudsman.

Now, click on “view all comments” at the end of a story, column or blog on washingtonpost.com and enter a new world that challenges long-held practices and that can unnerve some journalists and readers. The online comments are immediate, use only e-mail addresses as identification and can be raw, racist, sexist and revolting.

Howell goes on to say that many reporters don’t appreciate the “rude” feedback and lays out some examples of reader complaints. No real attempt is made to explain the value of comments. She closes the piece calling for “vigorous moderation” of comments, which, given the overall tone of the column, comes off as a vague call for censorship. She would lead the Post down a very slippery slope.

Naturally, the piece has attracted a lot of comments. Some of them are rude, some are insipid and some are extraordinarily insightful. That’s free speech (and democracy) for you. It’s messy. I’d much rather have this messy version of the Post than one where the likes of Deborah Howell are empowered to protect us from all the unpleasantness.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.