HoldtheFrontPage is today closing reader comments on all stories until further notice in response to the coronavirus crisis.
The move follows a temporary reduction in staffing levels on the site during the current lockdown, coupled with a desire to ensure all our energies are directed towards our news coverage at the present time.
Comments had already been selectively turned off on some stories over recent weeks to discourage negative commenting, for instance on stories about journalists being abused on social media over their coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Developers are now working on a new system of story comments to be rolled out on the site later this year. In the meantime commenting will continue to be available via our Twitter and Facebook channels.
HoldtheFrontPage publisher Paul Linford said: “Like nearly all media businesses, we have taken a significant hit to our ad revenues at a time when, content-wise, we are as busy as we’ve ever been in our 20-year history.
“This has meant we have had to reduce our staffing levels at the same time as endeavouring to cover the industry’s response to the crisis in the comprehensive way that our readers have come to expect.
“Something has to give and in our case it’s story comments. While many comments are thoughtful and constructive, the complaints which some of them generate can absorb a fair amount of management time and that is something we can currently ill-afford.
“In addition, negative story comments often serve to detract from the actual story and we want the focus of attention, particularly at this time, to be on our news coverage rather than on the views of, often anonymous, commenters.”
Added Paul: “The current crisis has also provided an opportunity for us to step back and take a look at what kind of story commenting system we want to see on HoldtheFrontPage when things return to some degree of normality.
“People making negative comments on otherwise positive stories about regional journalism has long been a bugbear of mine, and the current situation has brought this more into focus, with some commenters choosing to criticise the efforts journalists and publishers are making to navigate the crisis.
“While we want HTFP to remain a lively forum for debate, I don’t think those sorts of opinions – coming as they do from a relatively small number of users – are particularly reflective of our wider audience.
“We want to encourage a much broader range of opinions to be voiced on the site, and the system of commenting which we plan to introduce once this crisis has passed will hopefully achieve that.”