Integrating user-generated content (UGC) has become an everyday practice in online journalism. Previous research suggests this can have both a beneficial and detrimental effect on a recipient’s perception of online journalism’s trustworthiness. We conducted an online experiment that, on the one hand, examined the overall influence of integrating UGC in an online news article compared to leaving it out altogether. On the other hand, we also analyzed how two specific modes of integrating UGC, namely its verification and visualization, influence trustworthiness. Controlling for different news topics, our results show that UGC is not a way to boost journalistic trustworthiness. In general, the journalistic use of UGC has a negative but overall weak impact on recipients’ perceived trustworthiness of a news article. Regarding the mode of integration, the verification of UGC to some extent positively increases trustworthiness, while visual integration has no substantial impact. Overall, the study sheds light on the hitherto somewhat neglected recipients’ perspective on UGC and lays the groundwork for future studies focusing on the reasons behind the uncovered effects of UGC on trustworthiness.
Grosser, K., Hase, V., & Wintterlin, F. (2017). Trustworthy or shady? Exploring the influence of verifying and visualizing user-generated content (UGC) on online journalism’s trustworthiness. Journalism Studies. doi:10.1080/1461670X.2017.1392255 (Link)