The Covid-19 crisis has led to media industry website HoldTheFrontPage (HTFP) to close down its comments section.
And the regional-press focussed site says it intends to tackle the problem of negative comments once the feature returns.
In a statement on the site, HTFP blamed the need to temporarily reduce staffing levels following a reduction in advertising for the closing of the reader comments feature on all of its stories.
“The move follows a temporary reduction in staffing levels on the site during the current lockdown, coupled with a desire to ensure all our energies are directed towards our news coverage at the present time,” the statement read.
However, HTFP revealed that some comment features had already been turned off to discourage negative commenting: “…for instance on stories about journalists being abused on social media over their coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak.”
HoldtheFrontPage publisher Paul Linford said: “Like nearly all media businesses, we have taken a significant hit to our ad revenues at a time when, content-wise, we are as busy as we’ve ever been in our 20-year history.
“Something has to give and in our case it’s story comments. While many comments are thoughtful and constructive, the complaints which some of them generate can absorb a fair amount of management time and that is something we can currently ill-afford.
“In addition, negative story comments often serve to detract from the actual story and we want the focus of attention, particularly at this time, to be on our news coverage rather than on the views of, often anonymous, commenters.”
Linford said the crisis has provided an opportunity to step back and take a look at the commenting system wanted for the site.
He added: “people making negative comments on otherwise positive stories about regional journalism has long been a bugbear of mine, and the current situation has brought this more into focus, with some commenters choosing to criticise the efforts journalists and publishers are making to navigate the crisis.
“While we want HTFP to remain a lively forum for debate, I don’t think those sorts of opinions – coming as they do from a relatively small number of users – are particularly reflective of our wider audience.
“We want to encourage a much broader range of opinions to be voiced on the site, and the system of commenting which we plan to introduce once this crisis has passed will hopefully achieve that.”
Followers will still be able to comment on HTFP Facebook and Twitter sites.