Kommentaarium kui ajakirjaniku töö mõjur
Readers’ comments as the factor on journalist’s work. Keywords: readers’ comments, user-generated content, participatory journalism, citizen journalism, interactivity. The objects of study of the current Bachelor’s thesis were ten journalists from four Estonian publications (postimees.ee, epl.ee, ohtuleht.ee, delfi.ee) with who semi-structured interviews were carried out. The method of analysis of the empirical material was unstandardized content analysis. Questions asked during the interview were divided into subgroups of research questions and the method of horizontal analysis (case-by-case analysis) was used in order to monitor the responses of each respondent during the entire interview. Readers’ comments have not been previously studied from journalists’ perspective in Estonia and also elsewhere in the world this problematic area has been addressed only recently, thus it was the right time to start studying this area in greater detail also in Estonia. The current thesis searched for answers to three questions: how journalists perceive the impact of readers’ comments in their work, how the functioning of the readers’ comments impacts journalists in complying with the code of ethics and what journalists can do in order to protect their articles and sources in readers’ comments? The current thesis aimed at studying the factor that the journalists perceive in readers’ comments in their work. To specify the aforementioned, whether journalists see readers’ comments as disadvantageous or beneficial, whether readers’ comments helps to develop new ideas, facilitate journalists’ work and to what degree journalists start communicating with the online article commentators who have addressed them. In a situation where journalism is regulated in democratic society by the Constitution and the agreed journalists’ code of ethics, one of the aims of the current thesis was to study whether the functioning of readers’ comments could place the journalist in a situation that contradicts clauses 1.4, 1.5, 3.3 and 3.4 of the journalists’ code of ethics and the corresponding ethical and moral values. In addition to the above, attention was drawn on what journalists could do in order to protect their article and source in readers’ comments and what is the impact of the readers’ comments on the author of the article and thereby on the journalistic content of the publications. Journalists see the beneficial side of readers’ comments, however, in most cases they do not use it, rather it is used for identifying spelling mistakes, finding pieces of information and additional information, getting material for a new article, however, in case of the latter not in the first priority. The disadvantage of readers’ comments lies above all for journalists who address delicate issues in the sources who do not want the reader’s comments to be available next to the article and thus refusing to be interviewed for the article. Additionally, another disadvantage was seen in the fact that reading the comments written with regard to their articles may bring about moral harm to the author of the article. Unlike the research results from the United States of America, Estonian journalists are more modest when reading the comments written with regard to their articles. However, there are not any major differences in responding to the readers’ comments. In most cases no response is submitted to the comments. The dilemma raised in the interview brought four journalists into contradiction with the clauses of the journalists’ code of ethics under consideration and the values representing these. The current thesis does not state why, however, it proposes possible reasons: the extent of responsibility is not perceived in readers’ comments, it is not clear for the journalists whether the readers’ comments is an area of responsibility of the publication, lack of professional education, etc. Journalists do not see the possibility of protecting their arguments in readers’ comments or protecting their source, but rather providing beforehand psychological counselling to the source or deleting the comments are seen as possibilities for protection. In summary, both the respective studies carried out in the United States as well as the current thesis show that the readers’ comments may serve as a useful tool for the journalists and thereby have positive impact on the creation of journalistic content. The study carried out with journalists from 11 European countries demonstrated that 60% of the respondents agreed that journalism benefits significantly from starting to communicate with readers. (O’Sullivan and Heinonen 2008, via Steensen 2011).