“Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought,” Popular Science’s online content editor wrote at the time.

Many other national news outlets — NPR, Vice, CNN, Reuters, among many more — have turned off comments over the past several years. Most often, journalists say they are shifting comments to social media, where users can share and discuss stories however they like.

The reality is that news sites already dealing with tight financial budgets and cutbacks often struggle to devote resources to monitor what readers are saying.

“Without moderators or fancy algorithms, [reader comments] are prone to anarchy,” Vice Editor Jonathan Smith told readers when it shut down comments. “Too often they devolve into racist, misogynistic maelstroms where the loudest, most offensive and stupidest opinions get pushed to the top and the more reasoned responses are drowned out in the noise.”

The New York Times addresses the staffing issue by employing a Google algorithm called Moderator. Previously, staffers had been trying to sort through 12,000 reader comments daily by hand.

Many people defend reader comments by citing the founding fathers’ commitment to free speech and the free flow of ideas. In reality, readers often end up commenting on less lofty topics.

The stories that generated the most comments on Facebook last year included an abortion story that PolitiFact deemed false, the story about teenagers who faced off with a Native American Vietnam veteran on the National Mall, and a fake story about Henry Winkler dying (he’s alive).

Whatever your take though, you still can offer it.

As for City Paper, now that it no longer allows comments on articles, it has gone back to the beginning: It plans to resume running letters to the editor.

“We encourage people to email, as it provides an opportunity for readers to connect with our writers and our writers to connect with them,” Deto told me.

Comings & Goings

Pittsburgh lost many notable journalists in recent weeks as the Post-Gazette offered buyouts and 14 employees took them.

They include columnist Brian O’Neill, news editor Steve Sybert, op-ed editor Will Tomer, theater critic Sharon Eberson, photographers Darrell Sapp, Christian Snyder and Michael Santiago, online editor Matt Moret, Washington bureau chief Tracie Mauriello, graphic designer Alexa Miller, and reporters Steve Twedt, David Templeton and Matt McKinney.

Two recent departures of journalists, however, stand out in that crowded and distinguished field:

Paula Reed Ward, a courthouse reporter at the Post-Gazette who has fascinated the city for years with detailed behind-the-scenes crime stories, wrote a heartfelt goodbye to readers, in which she talked about how her ongoing battle with breast cancer has reset her priorities.

Bob Bauder, a former steelworker who became the Tribune-Review’s longtime city hall reporter, announced his retirement — and the city honored him with a day in his name. It’s always remarkable when a hard-hitting reporter leaves the job with the respect of the people he covered.

The founding director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, Andrew Conte writes the On Media column at NEXTpittsburgh with support from The Heinz Endowments. You can find all of his columns here, and you may reach him at PittsburghPublicEditor@gmail.com