The effect of online news story comments on other readers' attitudes: focusing on the case of incongruence between news tone and comments

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University of Alabama Libraries

As people read news on the Internet, they are also exposed to other readers' comments in response to the news stories. The comment forums on news websites offer a sphere where readers can communicate as both providers and receivers, and the comments provided may influence how news readers shape their opinions. The purpose of this study is to investigate if comments in response to an Internet news story influence other readers' opinions and to determine the extent to which readers' evaluation of the news story and perception of public opinion vary when these comments either affirm or are in conflict with the tone of the story. The experiment for this study exposed 120 participants to a news story manipulated according to two types of news tones (pro and con) and two types of comments (pro and con). Individuals who read comments in conflict with the tone of the news story perceived the news story less positively than did those who read comments affirming the story. However, individuals' perceptions of public opinion based on the third-person effect showed no change in response to comments in conflict with the news story's tone. Furthermore, the hostile media effect did not cause the partisan group who read news conflicting with the opinions expressed in the comments to perceive the story as biased and to evaluate the story's news value as low.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Mass communication