I wrote a piece about the positive values of anonymous commenting a while back. In summary, my take is that online journalism is a two way process – a democratised space, with new rules. We haven’t got it right yet – but it doesn’t mean comments are bad or that their only value is to drive traffic. Here’s a bit from it:
“In print journalism it’s normal to adopt an authoritative, top-down position, offering readers a very meagre right to reply. People reading the work may or may not agree with it, but few will bother to express their own opinion. Even when readers do choose to write, the magazine or newspaper is in control of the process of response. There is, in this, an assumption on behalf of the journalist and editor that their opinion is superior and expert. In fact, that assumption of authority is how many magazines are sold.
Blogging’s a very different thing. You’re starting a conversation about your opinion. Your voice is now one among many. You’re no longer superior and your expertise can and will be held under scrutiny. Sometimes people will disagree with you. Some politely, others less so.”