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  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. 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
  17. 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.
  18. • 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
  19. 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:

Editor's Notes

  1. Washington Post and NY Times