What meaningful impact do comments on news articles and blogs have?

Question by Gir-een: What meaningful impact do comments on news articles and blogs have?
I’m sure there are ‘hits’ related to advertising. Anything more?

Best answer:

Answer by EASpouse
When the comments are rational and fact-based, they can be the basis for an interesting dialogue. I some places, the author may even return to answer questions, or address issues spawned by the first article. But typically, ultra-libs and uber-conservatives can turn a comment thread into a nasty, vitriolic attack fest — it really depends on whether or not the site requires registration, and whether or not they moderate the forums. Where registration is required and the comments are moderated, you will find more civil discussion and discourse. Where flaming, anonymous posts are the norm, expect more name-calling, closed-minded bigotry, and verbal violence of the first order. You as the reader have to develop enough pragmatism to help evaluate the intent behind, and content included in each post.

For example, the whole “Warren Buffet Rule” issue is a classic case of both sides talking past each other. Buffet and Obama never get into a discussion of what elements of the tax code legally permit Buffet to pay such a low tax rate. Where/when their opponents point out these “errors of omission”, they typically get called names or the subject get changed, no one responds to the tax code issue because it completely destroys the Buffet/Obama argument, if the issue is, how do you modify the tax code to deal with this, without creating some really anti-productive tax policies.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!