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ARTICLE: Comments make journalism look bad

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The presence of online user comments deteriorates the journalism’s perceived quality, write Fabian Prochazka, Patrick Weber and Wolfgang Schweiger, all of University of Hohenheim. The authors conducted an online experiment on 942 audience members. The respondents were shown news stories with different types of comments or with no comments at all.

News stories that had no comments were seen as the most high quality in terms of composition and ethics, the authors found. Both civil and uncivil comments had a negative impact on the perceived quality, although uncivil comments were more detrimental than civil ones.

The researchers also factored the impact of brand awareness by portraying some of the stories as being published by well known German news brands and some by a fictional news company. Brands were relevant when the respondents considered quality in terms of objectivity and information value. Comments did not affect stories by established news brands, but stories by the unknown company were perceived as less or more informational according to how rational the comments were.

The article Effects of civility and reasoning in user comments on perceived journalistic quality was published by the journal Journalism Studies. It is available online (abstract free).

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