Yesterday’s Washington Post included a letter from David Lat, founder and managing editor of Above the Law (ATL). I rely on ATL as a legal news website to keep me up to date on happenings in the legal profession and to keep you informed about them as well. David Lat, Elie Mystal and Staci Zaretsky do a fine job of reporting the news in an industry where there is always a lot of it to sift through. They even have mentioned me and Best Friends at the Bar on a couple of occasions, and I appreciated the shout-outs.
David Lat’s letter was announcing a change in policy at ATL. The policy involves comments that readers can post on the website about the reported news articles. It seems those comments have gotten out of control, and Lat says that “Above the Law was overtaken by on-line jerks” and that negative reader comments are “ruining the Internet.” He describes, at some length, how commenters have sunk to the depths of offensive dialogue, including racial and gender slurs. As a result, ATL will no longer include a comment section to engage readers with new content.
This did not come as a big surprise to me. I always have been bothered by the kinds of readers’ comments posted on ATL, and my concern escalated recently with reference to an ATL feature blog, “The Pink Ghetto.” I wrote about it in a January 20, 2016 blog where I questioned whether the gender offenses in legal workplaces reported in the comments to “The Pink Ghetto” were true — or whether those comments represented ATL readers having some fun with exaggeration and creative writing. There is no accountability for anonymous comments, and they can provide false information and lead to unreliable influence, especially on young women in the first phases of their careers.
So, I am glad that ATL has made this decision and has followed other leading news services that have abandoned comments from readers. I also am glad that I alerted my readers to this months ago. It is important to be a critical reader, and I will always try to be that for you.