Online news commenting platforms as space for democratic deliberation : a study of selected Nigerian online news websites

Apejoye, A ORCID: 2020, Online news commenting platforms as space for democratic deliberation : a study of selected Nigerian online news websites , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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News commenting has become part of the features of online news sites in Nigeria, providing space for readers to express their views on news content and to engage with other readers in discussion. Over time, these commenting sections have become a space for the exchange of acerbic and, beyond that, extreme comments. On the one hand, online news commenting is seen as one of the democratic features the internet offers as well as making the audience active within the chain of news production (Trygg, 2012a). On the other hand, it is a source of concern because it sometimes serves as a platform for offensive and uncivil behaviours among the audience (Hlavach & Freivogel, 2011). In Nigeria, the popularity of comments sections of online news media is rising as people now have access to news on the move through their smartphones. A core question arising from this is: does the online comments’ space contribute to the development of a democratic sphere for rational and critical discourse among readers? This thesis investigates online news readers’ comments in Nigeria, and in the process considers the extent to which they constitute an online public sphere based on the initial definition provided by Habermas (1991). The study applied a mixed-method research approach combining qualitative and quantitative content analysis, semi-structured interviews and a survey. The content analysis analysed news headlines and comments from four selected online newspaper platforms. Semi-structured interviews engaged participants, who include journalists, politicians, and ordinary citizens who read news online and participate in online deliberation. The survey method adopted an online survey which elicited 228 respondents. Conceptually, to provide a better understanding of the phenomenon of news commenting as a space for democratic discussion, the research combines public sphere and critical political-economic theories as to its analytical framework. The thesis argues based on the evidence of data collected and analysed that an online public sphere exists in Nigeria. However, it is dysfunctional because deliberations within the sphere are not rational and critical of the subject of discourse, most of the time. The deliberative space is restricted as participation requires literacy and technological skills and resources, thereby excluding many Nigerians who are not literate in the use of the gadgets and are illiterate in the use of English- the language of interaction. A key finding of the research is that the production of texts and meaning and conversation around them within the deliberative area is conditioned by ethnic and religious sentiments and grounded in the news content provided by the news platforms already influenced by specific political and economic imperatives.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Simpson, S (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media
Funders: Tertiary Education Trust Fund of Nigeria
Depositing User: Adeyanju Apejoye
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2020 13:10
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 21:44

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