As It Happens

Want to comment on a story? Take a quiz first, says Norwegian broadcaster

A Norwegian tech news site has introduced a novel new comments policy — if you want to share your thoughts on a story, you must first prove you've actually read it.
Want to comment? You better read more than the headline, says Norwegian site NRKbeta. (Antonov Roman/Shutterstock )

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A Norwegian tech news site has introduced a novel new comments policy — if you want to share your thoughts on a story, you must first prove you've actually read it.

"Hopefully, it'll contribute to people making a bit of time to think about what they're going to write before they do it because it's sort of a speed bump before you get into the typing," Stale Grut, a journalist with NRKbeta, the tech offshoot of Norway's public broadcaster NRK, told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

When a lot of journalists hit "publish" I think that they see themselves finished with a story. - Stale Grut, NRKbeta

"It also makes sure that everyone is on the same page before they start commenting, so we're kind of hoping that it will improve some of the comments, which might have been typed just by reading the headline or parts of the story."

​NRKbeta has a dedicated readership who are usually pretty good about making thoughtful comments, Grut says.

But whenever the site publishes a story that gets featured on NKR's homepage and garners a broader audience, that's when things tend to spiral out of control, with the comments ranging from uninformed to blatant harassment.

In cases like that, it's hard to scramble the resources to adequately moderate, especially in a small newsroom like NRKbeta's.

Reporter Stale Grut told As It Happens that NRKbeta is trying to approve the quality of its news engagement by asking readers to prove they've read the stories they want to comment on. (NK Beta)

It's a problem that news organizations around the world are struggling to deal with. In Canada, the Toronto Star disabled comments completely, while the Toronto Sun has removed comments from "most" of its online stories.

CBCNews.ca has asked commenters to register with their real names and generally cut back on the number of stories it opens for comment. 

Fact-based questions

But Grut says turning the comments off altogether doesn't align with NRKBeta's values. The site encourages journalists to actively engage in the comments, looking out for informed readers who expand on the coverage. 

"When a lot of journalists hit 'publish' I think that they see themselves finished with a story. That is kind of how thing's have always been in this business," Grut said.

"But we see that you're only halfway through with the article when you've published it. So we also want to improve the article and discuss it with our audience as well."

'Answer the questions below to unlock the comments,' reads NRKbeta's news quiz, translated to English by Google Chrome. (CBC)

The challenge now is figuring out how to best craft the quizzes, which the journalists write themselves.

"We try to be as neutral as possible, have some easy questions that are not too hard to answer, but that we can agree on," he said.

"We kind of hope that at least making sure that people are on the same page before they start commenting will kind of make for more civilized debate around the different topics than just getting angry because you saw something that shocked you and just type away."

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