This paper is a qualitative empirical study of the perceptions of web editors and moderators about reader comments. Drawing from the insights provided by nineteen in-depth interviews with newsroom staff, we contend that reader comments have so far made little impact on the practices of traditional journalism in Turkey and that their promise to foster more constructive online public deliberation is largely unfulfilled. Reader comments continue to be an underestimated and neglected feature of online news. Online journalists’ perceptions of reader comments are not based on any solid information of their readers but on their own personal observation and experiences. Moreover, freedom of expression in reader comments in mainstream newspapers is very limited due to legal and political pressures and prevalent self-censorship. Online journalists define politics and sports as the main categories that receive the highest number of comments most of the time. They also observe in reader comments the manifestation of a current political polarization in Turkey and point out the existence of majority pressure and a spiral of silence in relation to the Kurdish issue.
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