December 9, 2014 Last Updated 1:46 pm

The NYT’s and Post’s moderation policies result in far different comment sections following release of Senate torture report

The New York Times moderates its comments rather carefully; The Washington Post does not. The difference shows up on a day like today when there is politically charged news released.

Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the summary of its report on the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects. Though only a summary, it is still a 528-page document.

A little over two hours after the release of the document and the first stories hit the home pages of news sites, just over 600 comments had been released by NYT comment moderators. Over at The Washington Post, where comments are lightly moderated (if at all) over 1,800 comments were online.

The difference is that the conversation at the Post is in real-time, is mean spirited, and combative. At the NYT, where a reader can respond to another comment, but might wait hours to see if it makes it through the moderators, the comments are more like op-eds.


Although there are a few digital-firsters who will argue about the value of an unmoderated comments section, honest publishers will admit that it is the lure of the added web traffic, and therefore revenue, that is the appeal of the comments. The trick, which many publishers must debate internally, is whether the advantage of light moderation outweighs the value of a civil website.

In the time it took to write the copy above, 44 more comments have been posted to the Post’s main story on the Senate report. That is web traffic that few publishers are willing to give up – unless it is also leading to their target audience staying away.

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