Weekend Reading II: Experimental Google News Comments Feature Continues to Stir Debate

Earlier this month, Google News (Nasdaq: GOOG) expanded to include comments — some solicited — from subjects of articles aggregated by the service. Various debates launched immediately: Content creation or not? Usurping news outlets or enabling? Blank check for subjects or community service?

Then there’s the LA Times editorial about the new feature, someone’s bright idea about how to explain the difference between journalism and Google News — that filtered information is more valuable than the digital equivalent of an open mike. One particularly ill-advised example: “Many publishers consider the Internet, and Google in particular, a greater threat to their livelihoods than Osama bin Laden.” (Contrast this with Rafat’s just-posted item about MarketWatch’s new community site. )

OJR editor Robert Niles, a former LAT staffer, sums it up with the headline of his step-by-step shredding — “The L.A. Times tells its readers: ‘Shut up.'” Niles: “The Los Angeles Times this morning insulted its readers in a stunning editorial that compared Google with Osama bin Laden and showed why Times editors simply do not understand the medium that is growing to dominate the news publishing industry.”

Spy magazine used to run letters from the New Yorker since the venerable pub wouldn’t. Today, the New Yorkers runs its own letters. Maybe Google News will provide the same prod for media sites still closed to direct user and subject comments about their work.