Silicon Alley Insider spotted the New York Times web site displaying reader comments prominently under the top story on their front page today. The comments in-and-of themselves are not newsworthy -- they came from a post on the site's news blog and the Times has linked to comment threads on the main page before. But this is, to anyone's recollection, the first time the site has actually displayed the actual comments themselves on the site.

Henry Blodget at Silicon Alley Insider thought the move was a good one, writing, "Hats off to the company's web team for this smart move!" Other bloggers weren't so upbeat. While it seems that the NYT times took pains to make sure that comments from both ends of the political spectrum were represented for their main page selections -- often to one extreme or the other -- and comments were edited to fit the space, I do question the wisdom of giving reader commentary such prominence on the site's index page.


Image from Silicon Alley Insider.

We've praised news sites for adding reader commenting as a feature to their web sites in the past, and we recently had kind words about the New York Times Facebook app. However, giving reader comments such a prominent position is dangerous. Readers of news sites (and blogs) go to those specific destinations to read news in the voice they expect -- not to see a public argument from commenters.

I would applaud an expansion of New York Times comments beyond blogs to general news stories -- I think commenting is great; it gives readers an outlet for instant response and keeps writers honest. But publishing comments on the main page, especially so prominently under the main story, seems like a bad idea. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below (we won't publish them on the main page, though!).