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Comments in News, Democracy
Booster or Journalistic Nightmare:
Assessing the Quality and Dynamics of Citizen
Debates in Catalan Online Newspapers
Javier Díaz Noci (UPF)
David Domingo Santamaría (URV)
Pere Masip Masip (URL)
Josep Lluís Micó (URL)
Carlos Ruiz Caballero (URL)
Aims
• Holistic assessment of comments in news:
– Evaluating the democratic quality of citizen debates.
– Understanding the management and control mechanisms of
audience participation
– Framing participation within the legal and ethical policies of
Catalan online newspapers
Methodology
• Multi-method approach:
– Analysis of legal texts and participation regulations.
– Interviews with online editors.
– Quantitative content analysis.
– Discourse analysis.
Sample
• 7 Catalan online newspapers:
– Avui, Diari de Girona, Diari de Tarragona, El Periódico,El
Punt, Segre, La Vanguardia
• Data collected Oct.-Nov. 2009:
– Comments accumulated until 8pm in the top story in 6
sections in a composite week.
– 36,059 comments to 1,754 news items: 4,507 comments a
day in average.
Methodology
• Discourse analysis
Based on the theory of communicative action of Jürgen
Habermas
Logical and coherent arguments
Cooperative effort to achieve the truth
Consensus based on the best argument of the
discussion
Distribution of comments among the media
Results
Average of comments per item and section
Number of contributions per user in each
news story
Do users focus their comments on the subject of
the debate/dialogue?
Discourse analysis
Do participants intend to offer arguments about
the topic discussed?
Do users offer different points of view?
Do users insult or disdain in their comments
people or institutions related to the news item?
Insults Disdain
Do speakers show any interest towards the
reasons introduced by other people?
Do speakers accept or develop other people’s
arguments?
Legal and ethical framework
• Norms regulating participation in the online newspapers strive
to guarantee the principles and values of democratic debates
• Racist comments, invitations to the use of violence or content
against human rights are explicitly forbidden
• The terms of use of the websites bond users to a commitment of
a fair use of the participation tools
• Users are held responsible for the content they provide, and
media reserve the right to modify their contributions.
• Users give the copyright of their contributions to the media
companies, for free and exclusively, guaranteeing it is original.
• Tots els avisos legals inclouen una clàusula jurisdiccional
Interviews: attitudes and strategies
• All online editors acknowledge that
comments in news are the most popular
participation feature.
• Economic benefits are clearer than
journalistic ones:
– Economic: Loyalty, traffic does not increase
– Journalistic: Getting to know their audience, not
many news tips
Interviews: attitudes and strategies
• Two approaches:
– Hands-off moderation: no registration, post-
publication control. Generates more comments,
leaves in the hands of the users to report abuse.
– Strict moderation: registration, pre- or post-
publication control. Concerned about brand
image and legal implications of abuse.
• Online newsrooms feel overwhelmed by
comment moderation.
– They lack the human resources for appropriate
control
– Outsourcing as a solution?
• Registration is not enough guarantee of quality.
Pre-moderation may be the only way.
Interviews: attitudes and strategies
Comments in News, Democracy Booster or
Journalistic Nightmare:
Assessing the Quality and Dynamics of Citizen Debates in Catalan Online
Newspapers
Gràcies! / Thank you!
Contact us: javier.diaz@upf.edu
david.domingo@urv.cat

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Javier

  • 1. Comments in News, Democracy Booster or Journalistic Nightmare: Assessing the Quality and Dynamics of Citizen Debates in Catalan Online Newspapers Javier Díaz Noci (UPF) David Domingo Santamaría (URV) Pere Masip Masip (URL) Josep Lluís Micó (URL) Carlos Ruiz Caballero (URL)
  • 2. Aims • Holistic assessment of comments in news: – Evaluating the democratic quality of citizen debates. – Understanding the management and control mechanisms of audience participation – Framing participation within the legal and ethical policies of Catalan online newspapers
  • 3. Methodology • Multi-method approach: – Analysis of legal texts and participation regulations. – Interviews with online editors. – Quantitative content analysis. – Discourse analysis.
  • 4. Sample • 7 Catalan online newspapers: – Avui, Diari de Girona, Diari de Tarragona, El Periódico,El Punt, Segre, La Vanguardia • Data collected Oct.-Nov. 2009: – Comments accumulated until 8pm in the top story in 6 sections in a composite week. – 36,059 comments to 1,754 news items: 4,507 comments a day in average.
  • 5. Methodology • Discourse analysis Based on the theory of communicative action of Jürgen Habermas Logical and coherent arguments Cooperative effort to achieve the truth Consensus based on the best argument of the discussion
  • 6. Distribution of comments among the media Results
  • 7. Average of comments per item and section
  • 8. Number of contributions per user in each news story
  • 9. Do users focus their comments on the subject of the debate/dialogue? Discourse analysis
  • 10. Do participants intend to offer arguments about the topic discussed?
  • 11. Do users offer different points of view?
  • 12. Do users insult or disdain in their comments people or institutions related to the news item? Insults Disdain
  • 13. Do speakers show any interest towards the reasons introduced by other people?
  • 14. Do speakers accept or develop other people’s arguments?
  • 15. Legal and ethical framework • Norms regulating participation in the online newspapers strive to guarantee the principles and values of democratic debates • Racist comments, invitations to the use of violence or content against human rights are explicitly forbidden • The terms of use of the websites bond users to a commitment of a fair use of the participation tools • Users are held responsible for the content they provide, and media reserve the right to modify their contributions. • Users give the copyright of their contributions to the media companies, for free and exclusively, guaranteeing it is original. • Tots els avisos legals inclouen una clàusula jurisdiccional
  • 16.
  • 17. Interviews: attitudes and strategies • All online editors acknowledge that comments in news are the most popular participation feature. • Economic benefits are clearer than journalistic ones: – Economic: Loyalty, traffic does not increase – Journalistic: Getting to know their audience, not many news tips
  • 18. Interviews: attitudes and strategies • Two approaches: – Hands-off moderation: no registration, post- publication control. Generates more comments, leaves in the hands of the users to report abuse. – Strict moderation: registration, pre- or post- publication control. Concerned about brand image and legal implications of abuse.
  • 19. • Online newsrooms feel overwhelmed by comment moderation. – They lack the human resources for appropriate control – Outsourcing as a solution? • Registration is not enough guarantee of quality. Pre-moderation may be the only way. Interviews: attitudes and strategies
  • 20.
  • 21. Comments in News, Democracy Booster or Journalistic Nightmare: Assessing the Quality and Dynamics of Citizen Debates in Catalan Online Newspapers Gràcies! / Thank you! Contact us: javier.diaz@upf.edu david.domingo@urv.cat

Editor's Notes

  1. Washington Post and NY Times