Incivility can run rampant in online comment sections. From a democratic angle, incivility on news sites creates reasons for concern. From a business angle, some news staff members worry that incivility-laced comment sections can damage their reputation and harm the overall news brand. Although news organizations can employ moderators to remove uncivil comments from these online forums, the practice can be both time-consuming and expensive.
With this in mind, we conducted two field studies with media partners to examine what happens when journalists take a more active role in comment sections. We analyzed whether posing questions to commenters can affect incivility and how long site visitors spend on a webpage. We also examined whether the presence of a reporter affects the tenor of the discussion.