In the article Presence of online reader comments lowers news site credibility, Lindsey Conlin and Chris Roberts discuss the impact of online reader comments on the credibility of news shared. Online reader comments make the news posted on online platforms more appealing to other readers but possibly negatively impact the news outlet’s credibility and shared message. Commenters often comment anonymously, enhancing their chances of posting controversial, offensive, and inflammatory comments without fear of consequences. Hence, readers argue and divert the actual message and their exact opinion on the issue at hand.
This research article aims to establish whether commenting and comment moderation affect the credibility of a community newspaper’s website and the message itself. The research questions the study seeks to answer include, “What is the impact of commenting and comment moderation on the messenger and message’s credibility?” “What is the impact of native or non-native commenting systems on the messenger and message’s credibility?” “What are the impacts of pre-moderation and post-moderation on messenger and message credibility?” “How does the amount that a person comments or reads on online media news affect their perception of the message’s credibility and its messenger?” While commenting remains a vital part of news sharing, its implication on media outlets’ credibility and their shared messages have become a concern. The research utilizes research credibility and the background of an experiment to assess the credibility of media and messages.
Data was collected by researchers of this study using a standard procedure. After randomly placing participants into groups, they were supplied with an online news story from Tuscaloosa News. Each story was followed by nine comments relevant to them and was created with permission from the online news outlet. The experimental conditions only differed in terms of their moderation and commenting system. Participants were instructed to log into applications and websites and post their comments depending on their conditions.
Statistical techniques and methods used in this research study include experimental conditions, a 2×2 experimental design, and the post-test technique. An experimental condition is a varied method used to estimate a given variable’s effect by examining it against a control condition. The four experimental conditions were derived from the independent variables, such as the moderation methods, including pre-moderation and post-moderation and commenting systems, such as the native and the non-native. The control condition was the news story without comments, while the dependent variable was the credibility of news outlets. The 2×2 experiment system involved the treatment of participants to two different hypotheses or tests, while the post-test technique was essential for analyzing responses after the research study.
Instruments include electronics for accessing The Tuscaloosa News website and applications such as Facebook, where participants log in to consume the story before providing feedback. Participants were selected randomly from undergraduate students with a history of consuming news online. The sample population then took part in the experimental design, which involved four conditions and a control condition and provided that that was sufficiently used to answer the four research study questions.
Results have been analyzed based on their answers to the four research questions. In answering the first research question, findings discovered that comments significantly damage message or messenger credibility. Concerning the second and third research questions, it was found that the commenting system and the moderation type have zero effect on message or messenger credibility. In answering the last question, heavy commenters perceive messenger credibility less than lighter commenters. Generally, comments following a news story on a sharing platform decrease the credibility of a message and the news outlet posting the message.
Strengths of the research study include the use of primary data collected directly from participants. Primary data is specific and provides the exact information required to back claims made in a research article (Aggarwal & Ranganathan, 2019). The data is also the most updated compared to the secondary research compiled in the past and could be outdated and inaccurate. As a result, it provides accurate and relevant evidence, which is ideal in backing claims that can effectively convince an audience to accept and apply as accurate and factual. In addition, the research has used various statistical methods and techniques such as 2×2 experiments, sampling, and post-test methods in data collection and analysis. Using multiple statistical methods and techniques helps in data analysis and its holistic application in backing claims made in a research article.
The article has identified strengths, limitations, and directions for future research. One of the cited limitations, such as using a less diverse population sample, left out the perception of other groups. Participants included undergraduate students who could have varying perceptions of credibility compared to older news consumers. With a more diverse or representative group of participants, it would be easier to get perceptions of different news consumers, all of which contribute to the effect of comments on the credibility of media outlets and the information they share on their social media handles and platforms.
In addition, a single story was used to collect data to back claims in the research. The story was about a feeding program that a state was considering introducing. The story was presented with a neutral voice with no opinions from any group of individuals. Using a single story makes it hard to analyze the impact of the content of a story on the perception of the credibility of a message or news outlet by participants. Some participants may react differently to a particular story due to factors such as affiliation or having a valid interest in a particular topic.
Future research should seek to improve these weaknesses and limitations to ensure accurate and credible research findings are achieved. Researchers interested in investigating the impact of user comments on the messenger’s credibility and message in the future should use a more representative or diverse group and use stories with different content. A more diverse group would help accommodate all the age groups with varying perceptions of credibility. Younger people, such as undergraduate students, may have a different perspective on credibility, considering their love and ease of adoption of digital media (Christie et al., 2020). On the other hand, using different content in shared online stories will help examine the impact of content on the nature of perception of the credibility of a news media or a news story in the future. The analysis of content as a factor will help enhance the accuracy of results and cover additional factors alongside comments that may negatively affect the credibility of media and messages.
In addition to the statistical analysis methods applied in this research study, statistical hypothesis testing and exploratory data analysis will be helpful in future research. Statistical hypothesis testing is a method of inference used to decide whether a research study’s findings sufficiently back a particular hypothesis (Aggarwal & Ranganathan, 2019). Before research, researchers formulate a null and an alternative hypothesis which is tested after compiling research findings and analyzing data. An alternative hypothesis is generally accepted when the null hypothesis is rejected. Experimental data or inferential analysis involves initial unknown data review, sorting, and analysis (Christie et al., 2020). Such may be necessary for validating data for errors and enhancing the accuracy and credibility of the data presented.
In conclusion, this research study has established the impact of user comments in posted news stories on messages and the messenger’s credibility. Participants were randomly selected from undergraduate programs and asked to log into media platforms to access the posted news story and rate its credibility and that of the media outlet. The 2×2 factorial experimental design was used in data collection, and the post-test method was used in data analysis and profiling. Results were tested on their ability to answer all four research questions.
Generally, the research found that news comments negatively impacted a news outlet’s credibility. The above result can be interpreted as blocking commenting on posted news stories can enhance the message and messenger’s credibility. While this study has such strengths as using primary data and multiple data analysis techniques, it is limited to using a less diverse group and the same content in its news story. Future research should consider using additional research methods such as statistical hypothesis testing and exploratory data analysis.
I will apply the 2×2 statistical test used in the research study to comprehend the impact of two independent factors on a single dependent variable. For instance, the test can help me study the effects of the truthfulness and advertisement of a news outlet on its massive social media following. Having the capacity to critique quantitative studies could help me advance in my work. Research extensively and analyze quantitative data to support my claims in research reports.
Aggarwal, R., & Ranganathan, P. (2019). Study designs Part 2 – descriptive studies. Perspectives in clinical research, 10(1), 34–36. https://doi.org/10.4103/picr.PICR_154_18
Christie, A.P., Abecasis, D., Adjeroud, M., Alonso, J.C., Amano, T., … & Sutherland, W.J. (2020). Quantifying and addressing the prevalence and bias of study designs in the environmental and social sciences. Nature communications, 11(1), 6377. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20142-y
Conlin, L., & Roberts, C. (2016). The presence of online reader comments lowers news site credibility. Newspaper research journal, 37(4), 365–376. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739532916677056