July 17, 2023
Generally clear. High 88 degrees.
Two “site-specific public sculptures” will reside for a year in Riverside Park South near the river at West 61st Street, thanks to a collaboration between the Art Students League and the Parks Department, according to releases from both organizations. There will be a brief, public ceremony celebrating the two League artists who created the sculptures (shown here) at the 59th Street entrance to Riverside Park from 4 – 5 p.m., on Tuesday, July 18, followed by a champagne reception at the Pier i Cafe at 500 West 70th Street.
By Carol Tannenhauser
Ah, the West Side Rag comments. They are a body — make that a piece of work — unto themselves. They can pile on with a negativity that brings the most seasoned writers to their knees, or lavish praise that elevates the lives of aspirants. Other publications envy us — “How do you get so many?” they ask. Since the start of 2023, we have received more than 12,000 comments, though we aren’t sure how many commenters they represent since a lot of them are anonymous or use fake, and, sometimes, multiple names.
The subject of what to do about the comments came up recently when we saw an entry in an Axios newsletter (item # 5) saying that “comments were a staple of early internet blogging, but professional news websites have reeled them in to prevent spam, abuse and harassment.” They cited another reason as well: MediaNews Group, a local newspaper company with 68 daily and 300-plus weekly publications, “shut down all of its comment sections as of July 1, due to difficulties in moderating them.” Gannett, one of the nation’s largest newspaper chains, “ended comments on most of its news articles earlier this year, citing difficulties in its ability to allocate enough staffers to adequately moderate them.” And the Philadelphia Inquirer removed comments in 2021, arguing, “The comments on far too many Inquirer.com stories are toxic, and have gotten worse as mounting extremism and election denialism pollute our national discourse. Our staff and readers deserve better.”
According to the current WSR comment moderator, many comments that are submitted are “trashed” for one or more of the following reasons: they spew hate; they name call; they’re by someone who has already commented numerous times; they convey blatantly false information; they reflect a repetitive message by the same commenter unrelated to the topic at hand; they curse; they have too many typos and/or misspellings; they’re way too long; they tell us where to go or what to do with ourselves (see cursing).
Every comment is read. It is a never-ending, thankless job that also poses grave psychological dangers. The last moderator….well, we won’t go into that!
Here is a word from the current moderator:
“We’re not going to end the comments. That said, it’s easy to list what we don’t want, but what makes a ‘good’ comment? Our hope is that the comment section will provide a forum for meaningful, respectful, informative, and humorous discussions among neighbors, factual and relevant to the article that is the subject of the comment. We hope that more of our readers will join in and share their opinions, insights, and expertise.”
A final note: Just this weekend, the moderator of The New York Times’ Metropolitan Diary comment section called it “a beacon of warmth that one reader likened to a city stoop, where people weigh in on what they have just read, but also reflect on daily life and trade stories of their own.” Granted, Metropolitan Diary is mainly a collection of human interest anecdotes, many of them heartwarming. It does not generally deal with controversial topics, but, still, wouldn’t it be something if WSR commenters could say, as one MD commenter did after the pandemic: “Our community supported us. Even though we are all faceless, we feel like a family.”
Looking forward to hearing from you all!
Bonus: Another story of women’s friendship, but, in this one, they’re Upper West Siders.
Have a great week!
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