Impact of reader comments on news articles

The first article that I selected came from The New York Times website regarding Barack Obama’s skeet shooting hobby. The article discusses Obama’s response to a journalist asking if he had ever shot a gun, and Obama said that he goes to Camp David to shoot all the time.  The controversy with this notion debates whether or not Obama actually attends skeet shooting regularly, or if he was just using his experience as a way to reach out to gun supporters.  This article produced a bevy of comments from the readers and after filtering through some of the useless comments that offer no actual information, the comment section contained some substantial opinions.  There are debates over if the photo is fake or not, gun control issues and interpretations of Obama’s claims. Some of the comments claim that the photo is a fake or at least staged because of the angle of his weapon or the details of the picture.  There are also comments regarding the necessity of assault weapons and gun control regulations.  One comment acknowledges Obama’s almost perfect shooting form with plenty of detail and concludes by saying, “I give his form an A-minus. You don’t shoot like this the first time you pick up a shotgun, it takes practice.”  A comment like this adds to the discussion by potentially adding validity to the story.  This comment is also third among the “reader picks” and received 165 “likes” showing the support that this particular comment received.

The Times’ website welcomes articulate remarks that are relevant to their articles along with advice, criticism and unique insight.  However they do not tolerate personal attacks, vulgarity, profanity, obscenity, commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence and SHOUTING. The site moderates these types of comments to keep the discussion intelligent and enhance the quality of the news article.

The second article that I chose to read came from huffingtonpost.com about Beyonce’s upcoming Super Bowl performance and how she guarantees to sing live without a backing track as she admitted to doing during Barack Obama’s inaugural performance. A few of the comments did help the discussion by alluding to similar moments in history, but the majority of the comments brought nothing to the table.  They were simply fans or ‘haters’ arguing how great or how phony Beyonce is.  I get the impression from this article and articles similar to this one that news involving entertainment will typically provoke a divided comment section such as this one.  It becomes a fan war rather than a civilized discussion.  One of the comments read, “Beyonce is the ultimate performer. Gives 100% in everything she does which is why she’s the best.” Another comment adds some flair to the discussion by saying, “EXCUSES EXCUSES EXCUSES….BEYONCE NEED TO PUT A LID ON IT AND JUST PAY MORE IN TAXES TO THE US TREASURY AS SHE IS RICH NOW.”  People get way too excited about some subjects and feel the need to blurt out their opinions simply because they can.

Huffingtonpost.com’s comment guide encourages and emphasizes a civil community that requires people who comment to keep their opinions appropriate for a mature discussion.  Name-calling and direct attacks on other individuals are not tolerated and are immediately removed.  The site claims to have consistent moderators that check and remove vulgar comments.  The comment policy also emphasizes the community responsibility to contribute to the moderation by utilizing the “flag” or “favorite” a comment so that the site moderators can act more quickly.

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