Study shows political stories bring out best, worst comments

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News stories about politics seem to bring out the worst in some people.

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers Senior Editor Emma Goodman recently assembled a review of what drives online comments. The group surveyed 104 news organizations in more than 60 countries, asking what kind of stories attracts the highest-quality responses. 

Several said political stories bring out most quality online comments, writes Andrew Beaujon in Poynter.org, while others said politics are the “type of articles that attract the worst comments.”

After politics, niche lifestyle — cars, travel, woman-specific, etc. — were next top comment generators, as was “anything technical.” On the other hand, the Dallas Moring News responded a lack of interest of comments in the newsroom.

On average, editors delete 11 percent of submitted comments, but consider the remainders as an opportunity to understand their readership. One editor responded that frequent commenters are sometimes the best customers.

Recommendations from the study suggest some best practices for publishers, such as hiring a community manager and boosting journalists’ participation in discussions. Publications should also make an effort to “protect minority opinions,” Beaujon reports.

“If a publication moderates actively,” the study concludes, “they can use this procedure to ensure that minority voices aren’t continuously drowned out.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.