As a reporter, there's nothing I hate more than people, especially those who are paid to talk to the media, who say "no comment." I believe in the exchange of information and ideas and that's how the truth is revealed, since so often people want it covered up.
But one area where I think the less said, the better, is the 'comments' section of news articles online. Generally those who comment on news are uninformed, unintelligent, tactless, vulgar and save for when they are working with others to hijack the comments section or promote a particular political point of view, contribute absolutely nothing to the discussion. There are times, though they are extremely few and far between, when someone commenting on a story will offer information valuable to the reporter or law enforcement, but for the most part the comments are useless and obviously are being done while someone is paying the commenter to do work that has nothing to do with the matter they are commenting on.
The latest story that got me annoyed once again about comments and commenters was the feel good story about a young man who won the city of Chicago's annual vehicle sticker art contest. A dozen or so high school students had their designs selected as finalists, and residents could go online to vote for the design they liked best. The story in the Chicago Sun-Times featured a picture of the high school student, smiling, with a poster-sized reproduction of his winning entry. It was an innovative design that featured a portrait of Daniel Burnham and a background of some of the famous urban architect's designs -- altogether a pretty handsome work of art, one which I don't mind at all displaying on the windshield of my car for 12 months.
But not everyone feels that way, at least among those who commented on the winning entry and the young artist, on the Sun-Times' Web site. Some decried the use of a photo-portrait of Burnham in the design, others didn't like that the young man apparently didn't draw it freehand, doing it by computer instead. Others dissed the selection process, saying it was like "American Idol," and that the kid who goes to the biggest school or who has the most friends, is the one who won, and that artistic talent had nothing to do with it. Some others took the opportunity to say that the voting system was rigged so that a certain school or a certain demographic group would win, and of course there were those who took the comment box as their opportunity to let the world know how much they hate Mayor Daley.
But all I could think about was the smiling young man in the Sun-Times photo, and his parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, even, and how proud they must have been of him and his achievement. Until they dared read the comments posted by the mouth-breathing know-nothings. I truly hope the idiots' comments didn't ruin an otherwise great day for this young man and his family. And I hope that those who saw a comment box as an invitation to crap on this piece of good news coming from the inner city of Chicago aren't always like this, but if they are, that young man, and all of us who cheer good news like his, will realize that at his age he has contributed more than all these commenters combined.
I welcome your comments.