Credibility in context: How uncivil online commentary affects news credibility

Kjerstin Thorson, Emily Vraga, Brian Ekdale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


In the new media environment, hard news stories are no longer found solely in the "A" section of the paper or on the front page of a news Web site. They are now distributed widely, appearing in contexts as disparate as a partisan blog or your own e-mail inbox, forwarded by a friend. In this study, we investigate how the credibility of a news story is affected by the context in which it appears. Results of an experiment show a news story embedded in an uncivil partisan blog post appears more credible in contrast. Specifically, a blogger's incivility highlights the relative credibility of the newspaper article. We also find that incivility and partisan disagreement in an adjacent blog post produce stronger correlations between ratings of news and blog credibility. These findings suggest that news story credibility is affected by context and that these context effects can have surprising benefits for news organizations. Findings are consistent with predictions of social judgment theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-313
Number of pages25
JournalMass Communication and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2010


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