Who knew a simple comment tab implemented in 2013 would be a new way for pundits to accuse websites of bias? nytimes.com is stuffing the comments box under each article, their staff upvoting favorites different than what readers choose. They do this under the comment tabs called Readers’ Picks versus New York Times‘ Picks. The explanation offered at nytimes.com is vague: “NYT Picks are a selection of comments that represent a range of views and are judged the most interesting and thoughtful. In some cases, NYT Picks may be selected to highlight comments from a particular region, or readers with first-hand knowledge of an issue.”
But blogger doomvas at the Daily Kos made a subjective discovery, at least in regard to a Paul Krugman article where the NYT Picks were “all lengthy conservative spin product.” Other articles demonstrate that the NYT Picks leans entirely toward the left. Take for example a recent OpEd resulting in the top (government-is-the-solution) comment of Michael Hayman: “A political party representing the needs and aspirations of the masses of people is needed to make political change.” But the Readers chose Mary Ann & Ken Berman’s refute that Occupy Wall Street was a failure: “Actually, Occupy may have been responsible for the relatively modest tax increases on earned income and capital gains that were enacted at the end of 2012.”
This is a good example for how print pundits and website managers are adding nuanced ways for expressing opinions. By stuffing the box of their own articles, they can corral readers to where they think the discussion belongs. Looking at the comments on most any YouTube video, for instance, demonstrates the necessity for expurgation. The trend to editorialize comments can also be seen at The Guardian, where they’ve divided comments into Staff replies and Guardian picks, presumably for the explicit purpose to separate the bias into multiple parties.
Note that The Guardian also make a habit of removing comments entirely (i.e., This comment has been removed by a moderator), which begs the question whether any of the comments can be objective at all, given that a staff or Guardian member can delete those comments he or she finds against his or her sensibility.