Published on September 10th, 2014

Incivility can run rampant in online comment sections. From a democratic angle, incivility on news sites creates reasons for concern. From a business angle, some news staff members worry that incivility-laced comment sections can damage their reputation and harm the overall news brand. Although news organizations can employ moderators to remove uncivil comments from these online forums, the practice can be both time-consuming and expensive.

With this in mind, we conducted two field studies with media partners to examine what happens when journalists take a more active role in comment sections. We analyzed whether posing questions to commenters can affect incivility and how long site visitors spend on a webpage. We also examined whether the presence of a reporter affects the tenor of the discussion.

 

Researchers

  • Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud

    Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud
    Director
    tstroud@austin.utexas.edu

    Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is the founding and current Director of the Center for Media Engagement and Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Her book, Niche News: The Politics of News Choice, received the Outstanding Book Award from the International Communication Association, and inspired the early development of the Center. Her research examines the use and effects of political news content.

  • Ashley Muddiman

    Ashley Muddiman
    Faculty Research Associate
    ashley.muddiman@gmail.com

    Dr. Ashley Muddiman (University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D.) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, as well as a Faculty Research Associate with the Center for Media Engagement. Her research explores political media effects, specifically those related to digital news and political incivility. She has studied how people select news stories to read in digital news and social media spaces, has examined incivility in The New York Times comment section, and has explored ways to encourage people to overcome partisan biases when engaging with digital news. She also enjoys developing innovative research designs, including a new method researchers can use when analyzing large amounts of texts.

  • Joshua Scacco

    Joshua Scacco
    Faculty Research Associate
    jscacco@purdue.edu

    Joshua M. Scacco (PhD, University of Texas at Austin, 2014) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida. He also serves as a Faculty Research Associate with the Center for Media Engagement. He specializes in political communication, media content and effects, and quantitative research methods. Josh’s research is focused on how emerging communication technologies influence established agents in American political life, including news organizations and the presidency. Before joining USF, Josh served on the faculty at Purdue University, worked in public relations at the state and federal level, and worked for a member of legislative leadership in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as well as a U.S. senator.

  • Alex Curry

    Alex Curry
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    alexcurry@utexas.edu

    Alex Curry (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Media Engagement. His research interests include political communication and civic engagement, and he is particularly interested in how sports tie people to their community and to each other. From 2005 to 2010, he served as a writer for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he’s not working, Alex enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his wife and kids.

  • Cynthia Peacock

    Cynthia Peacock
    Faculty Research Associate
    cpeacock@ua.edu

    Cynthia Peacock (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Studies department at the University of Alabama. She is interested in political communication and news use. Her most recent research investigates the contexts in which people express and avoid expressing their political opinions, and the ways in which diverse opinion expression and disagreement take place in political discussions.