Deliberation or Disinhibition? An Analysis of Discussion of Local and National Issues on the Online Comments Forum of a Community Newspaper

By Shannon Sindorf.

Published by The Technology Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study analyzes comments made to the online forum of a community newspaper before the publication shut down its online comments function, a move accompanied by claims that discussion had become too uncivil. The individual comments made to the forum in its last three months were analyzed for their local or national focus and the amount of deliberative discussion present in each post, including the presence of respect or disrespect. Findings indicate that most comments made on local and national topics contained some elements of deliberation, a process in which information and viewpoints are exchanged and considered thoughtfully in order to reach a decision or consensus. The element of deliberation most likely to be found in comments was a contribution toward the creation of an information base. Local comments were more likely than national comments to explicitly demonstrate respect for others, while national comments were more likely than local comments to explicitly demonstrate disrespect.

Keywords: Deliberation, Political Discourse, Newspaper Comments, Online Forums, Local vs. National, Civic Engagement

International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp.157-171. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 525.046KB).

Shannon Sindorf

Doctoral Student, Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA

PhD candidate in the Journalism and Mass Communication program at the University of Colorado researching popular culture, portrayals and understandings of technology, and the ways in which new technologies intersect with politics and political participation, including how informal online discussion contributes toward a deliberative democratic system.

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