Committed to Commenting … Or Not

I often wonder why some articles receive more comments than others. If I receive three comments on a Poynter Online article, I consider that to be pretty good. I thought the article I wrote about journalists paying it forward last week would receive at least a couple of comments, given the subject matter of the piece and the question/”click here” link at the end: “Click here to share your stories about how fellow journalists have helped you.” Yet, it was a centerpiece story for three days on Poynter Online and it didn’t receive a single comment.

The lower number of comments on our site compared to other Web sites may have something to do with the fact that the majority of our users are journalists. My colleague Amy Gahran wrote a thought-provoking piece about journalists commenting on the Web, called “Journos: Do You Post Public Comments? Why/Why Not?” She writes that: “In almost every blog and public forum where I participate, I’ve noticed that generally few of the commenters are journalists working for mainstream news organizations.” She raises a valid point that a whopping 17 readers expand upon in the comments section of the piece.

Another recent Poynter Online essay, “Hazarding a Guess on Race” by Sally Lehrman, received 14 comments, which is a lot for a Diversity at Work item, or any article on our site for that matter.

Drawing from your own experiences, what compels you to want to comment on an article/multimedia piece, etc.?

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

3 thoughts on “Committed to Commenting … Or Not

  1. I think there are two main reasons commenting is held back…

    1. If I can’t see the comments immediately concluding the article, then the odds are slim that I’ll take time to leave a message.

    2. I’m more opt to send a twitter response to a blog I’ve been following because It’ll be less work to check back for additional commenting.

    Ryan Sholin (@ryansholin) actually “tweets” each comment he gets after posting something to his site. It definitely helps the discussion along.

    I must admit I hadn’t given much thought to commenting until now. Good post!

  2. Thanks, Tom, you bring up good points. I like the idea of Tweeting about the comments you receive on your blog. I just did that with your comment:

    Do others agree with Tom about being more likely to comment on a piece if you can see the comments written out underneath it?

  3. I agree with Tom; I am definitely more likely to comment when I can see the previous comments [this being one such example].

    Tweeting the article & the comments are both effective ideas. Many articles I read are actually links found in Tweets. I’m also more likely to actually tweet the author rather than write a comment, especially if it is someone on my ‘following’ list.

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