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Commenting Patterns at De Correspondent and Krautreporter

The final session at ECREA 2016 today begins with Lena Knaudt, whose focus is on the democratic potential of slow journalism. Examples for this kind of journalism are especially platforms like De Correspondent and Krautreporter.

There are issues in online comment spaces with discursive equality (a small minority of commenters produce the vast majority of comments); debate quality (there is significant uncivil behaviour); and moderation (participation policies and guidelines substantially influence debates). These issues, which may be at least in part a result of the comparatively ill-thought-out initial deployment of these spaces, have led a number of comment section to be shut down altogether or be outsourced to social media.

The new slow journalism platforms do continue to offer comment sections, and the present section explores the nature of the debate and deliberation processes present in these comment sections. The project analyses some 1000 comments for each of the two platforms (although overall De Correspondent has much more active comment sections). On Krautreporter there remains a strong inequality in contribution activities; on De Correspondent activity is somewhat more evenly distributed.

There is very little evidence of off-topic activity in these comment sections. Incivility and hate speech is also very low (both are around 1%). Some two thirds of all comments are responses to other users, so there is considerable interactivity and debate. Almost 62% of all comments were providing critique and analysis, while other forms of engagement are a great deal less common; the next largest category, questions and answers, accounted for only 14%. These patterns were roughly equal across both sites.

Some 50% of all comments were backed up by facts, sources, or arguments. Around 20% were linking to other sources; first-hand knowledge and news media were most common by some margin. De Correspondent users referred more often to TV and other non-news media texts, while Krautreporter users pointed more often to commercial texts.

Overall, this points to a comparatively high quality of debate; contributors were critical and analytical in their comments. There is a question of how this relates to moderation practices, and whether the explicit self-positioning of these platforms as slow journalism outlets also plays a relevant role here.