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Steve Kelley

Many believe that allowing online reader comments are beneficial for a news organization. Steve Kelley certainly does not think so.

Kelley, the longtime Seattle Times sports columnist, will be writing his final column this Sunday. He went on the Luke Burbank Show on KIRO Radio this morning and had some interesting things to say about reader comments. You can listen here at about the 30-minute mark.

He recalled his favorite column, one he penned about his wife’s courageous battle with a brain tumor in 1991. Luke Burbank then asked him about the feedback he received.

“I got negative feedback, absolutely,” Kelley said. “People writing that ‘We don’t want to know about your boring personal life.'”

Then the conversation quickly turned to comments online at the bottom of stories.

“It’s a problem we’re running into in the business now,” Kelley said. “For the life of me, I don’t know why we run comments at bottoms of people’s stories.”

Burbank added that some of the comments are the “darkest part of the human soul.” Kelley then recalled how his son and former Seattle Times sportswriter Mason Kelley once wrote about a high school baseball player’s battle with cancer. That player was reluctant to talk because he was afraid of what kinds of comments the story would receive.

“I don’t know why it’s in our newspaper,” Kelley said of nasty comments. “We can’t write that — why do we allow it in our entity?”

Burbank then asked if sports fans have always been this bad.

“They just never had a chance,” Kelley continued. “Now they have a voice. Let’s be honest: Everybody thinks they can do my job. Everybody. I thought I could do my job before I could do my job. Everybody thinks that, and this proves it because they’re getting published. [The commenters] are getting their crackpot ideas and vitriol published in a legitimate news source. And anonymously, too. I don’t get that.”

Kelley brings up a great point. On almost every story, there’s bound to be some hurtful and over-the-top comments, many directed at the writer. But it does spark conversation and can act as a melting pot for people to exchange ideas, which can be productive.

What do you think? Should media organizations disable comments?

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