Answers to Taming Online Comments May Be Found in Talk Radio

By | March 4, 2014

John Dankosky

“I’m utilizing calls as texture for the show,” John Dankosky, news director of WNPR-FM in Hartford told me in an interview. “In my mind, I’m responsible for the comments because I chose to make production decisions within a program to make that content happen.” (Photo by CHION WOLF/WNPR)

With a 45-minute commute back and forth to UConn’s Storrs campus, I listen to a lot of NPR. One of my favorite radio shows is “On Point with Tom Ashbrook.” The show is smart, timely, features interesting guests, and includes perspectives from callers around the country.

Discussions on the show are civilized and insightful, unlike most of the comment streams on online news sites. How do the producers of ‘On Point’ manage to maintain control and quality of the show, and allow the audience to participate?

That question led me to an idea: Might online news publishers be able to learn something about meaningful audience participation and comment moderation from talk radio?

Talk radio callers, like online commenters, can be unpredictable. But audience participation on the airwaves isn’t like the commenting free-for-all often found online. There is methodology behind it.

After interviewing a dozen talk radio professionals around the country, here’s what I discovered, in a story published on Poynter today:

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