Title

Does Inside Higher Ed Have a Responsibility to Share the Effects of Eliminating Reader Comments?

Questions to the editors.

August 20, 2020
 
 

It has been almost two months since Inside Higher Ed decided to eliminate reader comments.

The question I have for both you and Inside Higher Ed ’s editors is, does Inside Higher Ed have a responsibility to share the results of this change with our community?

You will need to voice your opinion by writing to [email protected]. The editors of Inside Higher Ed will have to decide if, and how, to respond to this piece.

Why might Inside Higher Ed have a responsibility to share?

Letters to the Editor
Numerous readers have submitted
responses to this blog post. You
can view the letters here, here,
here and here, and find all of our
Letters to the Editor here.

Answering this question depends on how you think of Inside Higher Ed, and of how Inside Higher Ed thinks of itself. I look at Inside Higher Ed as a public good. The idea that an enterprise or organization cannot be both for-profit and a public good is, I think, false. The fact that Inside Higher Ed is set up as a profit-making enterprise is a structure that enables the organization to accomplish its social mission. What is that mission? According to Inside Higher Ed ’s about section,

Our mission is to serve all of higher education -- individuals, institutions, corporations and nonprofits -- so they can do their jobs better, transforming their lives and those of the students they serve.

It is the idea that Inside Higher Ed is part of our higher ed community, as opposed to an entity that stands apart and outside of our ecosystem, which makes it so important that the organization share the results of eliminating reader comments. Reader comments were a way for readers to become writers. Comments may have been imperfect, and maybe even irrevocably flawed, but commenting was a form of speech. Any curtailment of speech, even for good reasons such as encouraging and allowing for more productive exchange, should have a high bar.

Below are the questions I’d like to ask the Inside Higher Ed editors. The question for you, the reader, is, do you think that Inside Higher Ed has a responsibility to share any answers? Of course, I’m curious about how the elimination of comments has impacted your interaction with Inside Higher Ed. Fire up those letters to the editor. My comment related questions to Inside Higher Ed:

  • What has been the impact of eliminating comments on readership and engagement?
  • How have the metrics around news and opinion pieces changed?
  • Has there been any shift in the demographics or composition of readership?
  • What has been the volume of letters to the editor? How much of what is sent is published? And what can be said about the level of readership comparing letters to comments?
  • Has the elimination of comments changed the editorial or opinion content in a meaningful way?
  • With the time that Inside Higher Ed editors no longer need to devote to reading and approving comments, what has this change freed up time for?
  • What have been the positive and negative results of eliminating comments?

What would you like to know?

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