Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Comments in News Stories

I mostly do my reading on an electronic device - be it a laptop or a tablet or a phone. I still subscribe to a few magazines but often find that I don't have time to really peruse them because I am too busy using one of the other devices!

The other day while reading an actual magazine in paper form. It was a mildly controversial story - and what isn't controversial these days! I reached the end of the story, formed an opinion on the subject of the story and instinctively tried to look for reader comments. Obviously there are no reader comments in paper magazines other that letters to the editors. This got me wondering on the practice of allowing reader comments in online news media.

Different media outlets allow comments in different ways. Some websites allow comments in certain stories only while others allow comments in all. I think most people look at these comments to seek reassurance that their views are indeed shared by others. Also, often a liberal website have comments that are preponderantly liberal and a conservative site has overwhelmingly conservative commentary.

This seems to reinforce that we are creatures of habit and seek our comfort zones. We prefer to be lulled into points of views that agree with are belief.

But a broader implication, something I am trying to put my finger on is how comments affect what we read or choose to consume. Sometimes I see myself scan the headline, read some comments and then read the story. Just like I read reviews for a product before buying it from and online retailer, I am - in a way - trying to see if a news story is worth reading. I wonder if doing so is preventing me from consuming a wider cross section of information based on feedback. It appears that I am consuming the feedback before consuming the message itself.

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