Full title: From News Values to Discussion Values: Causes, Conditions and Effects of media-stimulated interpersonal communication on News Websites
Project term: 01.05.2013 – 31.12.2016
DFG funding procedure: Individual support
For a long time, communication science has analyzed which criteria journalists and media users apply to select news for publishing and reception. In this process, it has been largely neglected that news recipients do not just process the stories they read ‘internally’. Instead, news stories are also frequently discussed in media-stimulated interpersonal communication. But which stories do users discuss intensively and which stories are read but never discussed with others? And why? This is precisely what Prof. Dr. Oliver Quiring and Dr. Marc Ziegele from the Department of Communication at the University of Mainz want to examine. For this purpose, they investigate a very popular online communication form – user comments on news platforms. Methodologically, we are conducting two qualitative pilot studies and a large quantitative content analysis. The two qualitative pilot studies survey internet users who comment on news stories on their motives and their perceptions of news stories that are worth discussing. Furthermore, we study real user discussions on news websites in great detail in order to be able to extract reoccurring discourse patterns. Afterwards, in our main study, a great number of news stories and user comments are analyzed to test the predictive power of our theoretical model.
Our project will contribute to a better understanding of commenting users and their motives. Moreover, we do no treat user comments on news websites as a fully genuine form of communication, but rather conceptualize them as an extension of traditional media-stimulated interpersonal communication. Our project is also relevant for the journalism of a digital society because a better understanding of the factors that stimulate high- or low-quality-discussions can help to moderate user discussions efficiently. Finally, our study can help answering the question whether user comments are a value-contributing element of a modern and democratic society.