Finishing the "unfinished" story.
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MORRISON, J. 2016. Finishing the "unfinished" story. Digital journalism [online], 5(2), pages 213-232. Available from: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21670811.2016.1165129
Discussion threads published beneath articles on news websites have only lately become the subject of serious scholarship. While early research preoccupied itself with the hostile nature of comments posted on such forums, and the issue of moderation, recent studies have focused on two interlocking questions: the extent to which professional news organizations, and the journalists they employ, are 'buying into' the value of encouraging audience-members to comment on their articles and how successfully (or not) news-makers are using threads to forge virtual 'communities'. While the purpose of constructing such communities has largely been viewed through a utilitarian prism - as a means of drawing in traffic, building brand loyalty and generating income - consideration has also been given to threads as vehicles for empowering citizens, by allowing them to debate and/or contest the authority of professionally written news texts and/or establishment narratives. This article aims to go further, by building on an emerging strand of research which conceives of discussion posts less as adjuncts, or mere responses, to journalists' articles than extensions of them. It argues that the most valuable 'evidence-based' posts add background detail, colour and context that can greatly enhance - and help make complete - otherwise 'unfinished' stories.