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Public Spheres in Interaction: Comment Sections of News Websites as Counterpublic Spaces

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Research scrutinizing political talk online has been developed largely against the backdrop of deliberative discursive norms and considered political talk without a systematic analysis of surrounding mass‐mediated discourses. By contrast, this study operationalizes counterpublic theory as an alternative theoretical perspective and analyzes comments on news websites as a reaction to hegemonic mainstream public spheres. It juxtaposes a qualitative framing analysis of all articles about a new anti‐Euro party in devotedly pro‐European Germany published on 9 news websites in the week following the 2013 elections (n = 22) with a content analysis of all comments posted below these articles (n = 3,154). It finds counterpublic spheres differently shaped in comment sections of right‐ and left‐leaning, and tabloid and nontabloid, outlets. Consequences for democracy are discussed.
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Keywords: Comment Sections; Content Analysis; Counterpublics; Framing; Germany; Participatory Journalism; Political Communication; Public Sphere

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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