Hugh Pickens writes: "Doug Feaver has an interesting story in the Washington Post "in defense of the anonymous, unmoderated, often appallingly inaccurate, sometimes profane, frequently off point and occasionally racist reader comments that washingtonpost.com allows to be published at the end of articles and blogs." Feaver says that during his seven-year tenure as editor or executive editor of washingtonpost.com he kept unmoderated comments off the site but now four years after retiring he says he has come to think that online comments are a terrific addition to the conversation and that journalists need to take them seriously. "The subjects that have generated the most vitriol during my tenure in this role are race and immigration," writes Feaver. "But I am heartened by the fact that such comments do not go unchallenged by readers. In fact, comment strings are often self-correcting and provide informative exchanges." Feaver says that comments are also a pretty good political survey. "The first day it became clear that a federal bailout of Wall Street was a real prospect, the comments on the main story were almost 100 percent negative. It was a great predictor of how folks feel, well out in front of the polls. We journalists need to pay attention to what our readers say, even if we don't like it. There are things to learn.""
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