The best advice I ever got as a young reporter came during an internship at the Statehouse. I was sitting across from the Associated Press reporter one day. He asked if I was enjoying myself. I was a BU kid covering John Silber's bid for governor so I was enjoying the hell out of it.
While he was glad to hear it, he told me the best place to start off a journalism career is a small town. His rationale: You want to start writing in a community where you'll see the subject of your article the next day on the street, a place where you know you'll need to answer for whatever your wrote so you'd work extra hard to be fair and accurate (In his words, "a place where the Mayor might punch you in the mouth for what you wrote in the paper.")
We've lost a lot of that in today's culture where anonymity supposedly fosters "courage" and vitriol is offered up as "truth."
The online comments section had become a stewing pool of bile and venom. I didn't see any constructive coming out of name calling, accusations and manipulation. It didn't serve as an honest exchange of ideas. At best, it offered people a place to dump their garbage and go. At worst, it was twisted competition in rancor and attitude.
No doubt, the decision has diminished the volume of comments on Daily News articles. A study by Disqus, which sells the comment management system used by the Daily News and others, declared that "Pseudonyms Drive Communities," suggesting that posters using fake names generated the highest quantity and quality posts (as measured by likes and replies.)
Those armed with pseudonyms contributed more heavily to discussion boards than those who posted using the Facebook IDs or even those who signed on as anonymous.
Despite the Disqus report, I'm confident the value of the comments will skyrocket. I doubt we'll all be holding hands and singing hymnals at the end of the day, but at least we'll know where other people stand - and we'll know those people actually do exist.
For those who are crying about your freedom of speech, this does nothing to hamper that. You still have every right to say what you feel on the Daily News site, just own your opinions.
Or start a newspaper. Then you can understand how easy it is to put out a paper on a regular basis.
You can also go the anonymous blog route, there is an opening. My counterpart, the P. Preservationist, renamed his blog Brick and Tree. And while he's not declaring his name on the site he is now out in the open as a blogger.