Actually, I work literally one block from where one of the Va.-Md.-DC sniper shootings took place.
I feel awkward every time I park in that area.
As a longtime newspaper editor/reporter I'm on record as doubting the value of comments on news stories. Most of the ones I see just deteriorate into venemous attacks on other posters' comments, fomenting hatred, and endless arguments.
This happens even when the news story is, "Betty Maple ran a successful lemonade stand to raise money for the Double Amputees Charity."
"Who cares about Betty Maple? Why don't you write about me?"
"Her lemonade sucked! I want my money back!"
"Charities! It's just welfare! People should stand on their own two feet. Er. Stumps!"
"Betty Maple is a skank!"
"Not as much as you are!"
"I'm Betty Maple's brother and I'm so gonna kick all your a**es!"
And so forth. I do good "newspaper comments threads" impressions, no?
Most are like a Usenet thread or an unmoderated message board, basically.
The average paper can't afford full time stuff to moderate the stuff or keep an eye on what's posted there (whether serious threats or just basic name-calling).