Social Media & Journalism

“Journalists are equal participants in the Twitterverse, not all powerful information gatekeepers and agenda setters. Nevertheless, their combinant professional skill set of research, investigation, verification, information curation, sense-making, and narrative-weaving, appropriately deployed, can make them influential and trusted users.” (Posetti, 2013).

Social media has a powerful role in the journalism industry. Many researchers and journalists agree that what has emerged is an equal space where journalists are active audience members alongside their traditional readers. While journalists are still essentially gatekeepers, they’re perceived as more equal and more human which has in turn changed the way journalists go about researching and telling their stories.

A study of U.S Journalists in 2016 by Cision narrowed down five types of journalists and their use of social media into

  • people who are online journalists
  • think its important for promotion and networking
  • people who use it to look for work
  • people who simply observe and
  • people who think it has no place in journalism

Just by looking at the different ways journalists have adopted social media shows us how social media can change the way we tell our stories as online journalists would have more of a tendency to share personal opinions than the sceptics or observers, and how many journalists do utilise social media to find work and promote their work and themselves.

This “has led to the line between journalists’ personal and professional lives becoming more blurred than ever before” (Cellan-Jones, n.d.), which has its pros and cons such as perceived bias, impartiality and “challenging traditional notions of objectivity as a result of the blending of news reporting and personal opinions.” This has led to journalists developing their own “personal branding” as a journalist for self-presentation and promotion with all journalists having different levels of how professional or personal they are on the medium (Hanusch and Bruns, 2017). For example some journalists will have a personal profile and a professional profile, or some will combine the two and have varying levels of professional and personal content.

This is something that many journalists and news publishers are jumping on board with, with publishers including professional and personal social media guidelines for employees. The BBC is one organisation that encourages their journalists to be active on social media and providing tips to do so, such as:

  • being informal, “human”, chatty, authentic and humorous
  • Being impartial
  • Including images and video for better engagement
  • Asking questions
  • Being careful when retweeting so as to not mistakenly make endorsements
  • Be transparent

These tips all highlight how journalists and news publishers alike encourage having a personal and professional identity on social media, which aids transparency, engagement and lends to the whole idea of being active and equal with those who are consuming your content, which can give real authenticity and a human aspect to the stories being disseminated. However, this can work both ways in some consumers seeing bias or a hidden agenda which has led to many journalists being sanctioned by their publishers.

Overall, this ability for journalists to interact, engage and develop their identity through social media has changed the relationship between the journalist and their audience and therefore changed how a journalist creates and tells a story. While there are concerns of objectivity, traditional norms and ideas are being challenged and new norms created where many journalists converge their professional and personal lives with sharing opinion, identity and their professional processes to include the audience in the overall storytelling.


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