I’ve been watching with interest the vibrant discussion about Google’s new comment feature, which will let people or organizations featured in GoogleNews articles provide their own secondary comments – which will be published alongside the article. Jeff Jarvis has blogged a number of times on this topic – including a recent post detailing a back-and-forth polemic between the LA Times editorial staff critical of the feature and prominent bloggers who think it’s a step in the right direction.  If I can summarize the battle lines…those in the “con” camp are concerned that the tool will encourage too much unfiltered, unedited content with an inherent bias, while those in the “pro” camp believe allowing additional comments from interested parties will provide a more balanced, accurate and richer perspective. The folks at Google seem content to stay above the fray – go here to see their original post about the experimental feature.

From my perspective, it’s too early to tell how all this will wash out. But I do agree with Jarvis that this episode shows some newspapers continue to have a tin ear – and thin skin – when it comes to new ideas and applications that don’t originate within the hallowed fourth estate. At best, they seem arrogant and defensive. The GoogleNews tool may not be perfect and could be more trouble than it’s worth, but it’s an original idea that is worth looking at. If nothing else, it raises the level of dialogue in what was traditionally a static, one-way medium. Ultimately, it will up to readers to sift through the content and decide what is most relevant and credible.  

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