For what it's worth, I think washingtonpost.com's comment cutoff was a mistake. It's a big paradigm shift for people used to controlling every word that appears in their newspapers -- but online, a little loss of control pays off big time.I guess it's not just us, eh?
We should glory in the passion of our readers. We should listen to what they have to say, respond to their concerns, and if necessary correct their misimpressions. In short, we should empower the reader, not shut the reader up -- even temporarily.
The good news is that my understanding is that comments will be back soon. I think Jim Brady understands better than most that when you're lucky enough to matter so much to people that they want to engage with you, let them!
On the specific underlying issue, it's worth pointing out that the flashpoint for all this was a flatly inaccurate statement by the ombudsman -- that was then left uncorrected and unaddresed for several days. That was a big mistake. The Web offers great newspapers the opportunity to correct their mistakes quickly and effectively. When we don't, I'm actually quite happy to see people getting angry.
Furthermore, the fact is that the over-the-top abusive comments were in a tiny minority. From what I can tell, the vast majority of posts were passionate, articulate, reasoned, interesting.
In fact, the quality of the discourse in washingtonpost.com blog comments and Live Onlines (and in my e-mails) is extraordinary. It enriches our site enormously.
Update: Digby has more on the galloping hypocricy of Mr. Reynolds.