Quality & Quantity

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 1097–1108 | Cite as

Towards the operationalization of controversial news: a study of online news articles and reader comments during the 2017 presidential election in South Korea

  • Chan Woo Kim
  • Hyejin Park
  • Yeon-Ok LeeEmail author
  • Han Woo ParkEmail author


In this brief research note, we propose a set of concepts and methods for identifying and operationalizing controversial news items. Based on an analysis of online readers’ comments posted in response to political news articles in the lead-up to the most recent South Korean presidential election (May 9, 2017), we develop what we term as “controversy indicator.” We calculate a controversy score using the total number of reader comments and the proportion of “upvotes” (indicating approval) and “downvotes” (indicating disapproval) a given news article elicits. Our findings demonstrate the potential usefulness of the controversy indicator in understanding the contemporary news environment, which is becoming increasingly divisive and polluted with disinformation.


Controversy indicator Election News consumption polarization Online news Reader comment South Korea 



We thank Hui Wung Woon, who had collaborated on an earlier piece in Korean. This work was supported by the 2018 Yeungnam University Research Grant (Grant No. 218A380075).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center of BigData Analysis, OPINIONLIVESeoulKorea
  2. 2.Department of Educational Theory and PracticeSUNY-AlbanyAlbanyUSA
  3. 3.SOAS University of LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Department of Media and Information, Interdisciplinary Program of Digital Convergence Business, Cyber Emotions Research CenterYeungNam UniversityGyeong-SanKorea

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