Would you pay 99 cents to comment on this blog? [Poll]

A newspaper in Massachusetts has launched a commenting system that requires coughing up a one-time 99 cent fee to chime in. The idea of paying to comment may sound crazy, but if it keeps the spammers away, I'd be willing to pay it. Would you?
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

When I first heard that the Sun Chronicle, a small Massachusetts newspaper, had launched a new system for commenting, one that involves coughing up a credit card number and a one-time fee of 99 cents, I shook my head in disbelief and was prepared to hammer out a post to poke fun at the backward thinking of the publication's executives.

But then I came across one of those shopping spam comments on one of my own blog posts - you know, the ones that both you and I are growing tired of. That's when I realized that this newspaper wasn't thinking backward. It was thinking forward.

The newspaper is trying to promote "intelligent and meaningful conversation" on its blog posts and is using the new registration and pay system to, well, weed out the spammers, as well as those who do little to advance the conversation.

I want to call it a smart move but have mixed feelings about it, mostly because I don't agree with not allowing readers to maintain some sort of anonymity. Under this newspaper's commenting policy, readers are identified in their blog posts with first and last names, as well as hometown. That may be taking things too far.

Just a couple of days ago, I had an email exchange with one of you readers, who had sent me a private note to express his outrage over something I had written. During the exchange, there was a debate over "journalism." Now, some people say journalism is dying with newspapers, but I disagree. When I was in J-School, one of my professors noted that one of the tests of "true journalism" is whether it educates, informs or engages readers.

While the styles have changed over the years, the mission hasn't. When I write, I make attempts to educate, inform and even, occasionally, entertain my readers. What a boring world it would be if everyone just agreed with my assessment of a news story. I want my readers to be a part of the discussion. I want them to be engaged.

One of the best things that could have happened to the news industry was the arrival of a commenting system. In the old newspaper days, a reader could call and yell at the editor or reporter, who would likely tell them to write a letter to the editor. But there were no guarantees that letter would ever be published - especially if it offered an extreme counter-opinion. And if it were published, it could easily happen days after the initial news story - after the buzz over the news had gone cold.

Today, readers can chime in in real-time. And they can not only sound off, but they can discuss, debate or argue with not only the author of the post, but other readers, as well. And, hopefully, through these debates, we become a more educated group of readers who are exposed to opinions other than our own.

Going back to that anonymity thing, I still think people should be able to hide behind an alias. The newspaper wants to promote "intelligent and meaningful conversation" but the reality is that not all conversation in the world is intelligent and meaningful. And just because someone is willing to cough up a credit card and wear a name tag doesn't necessarily mean that his or her comment is meaningful or intelligent.

I'd like to hear from anyone and everyone who has a thought about the topic at-hand or the way I've written something. If you need to hide behind an alias to speak your true feelings, so be it.

As for the 99-cent payment, I have to say that it seems to be a small price to pay to keep the conversation going while also keeping the spammers out of the forum. I'd pay it. Would you?

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