Commenter and News Source Credibility: Roles of News Media Literacy, Comment Argument Strength and Civility


  • David Wolfgang Colorado State University
  • Manu Bhandari Arkansas State University



Many news websites allow for audience comments, but there is concern, especially when these comments are negative or low-quality, that the comments could negatively influence how readers perceive the corresponding news story. This experiment explores whether quality characteristics of comments – argument strength and civility – could help improve the perceived credibility of news content. Further, the study looks at whether quality characteristics of audience members, like their level of news media literacy, might reduce the negative influence of low-quality comments on someone’s perception of the credibility of the story. The findings reveal that higher quality comments lead to improved perceptions of the credibility of the news source, even when the comments criticize the journalist. Additionally, the study finds that individuals with higher levels of news media literacy are more capable of distinguishing the quality of journalist content from user-generated content.

Author Biographies

  • David Wolfgang, Colorado State University

    Assistant Professor

    Journalism and Media Communication

  • Manu Bhandari, Arkansas State University

    Assistant Professor

    Department of Communication


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