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Social Media and Journalism

The second day of ASMC14 has started, and I'm afraid I got here a little too late to catch all of Marcel Broersma and Todd Graham's paper. So, we're starting with Steve Paulussen, who explores Twitter's impact on journalism practices. Questions about who makes the news and who sets the news agenda are very familiar from the history of journalism studies, but have become all the more relevant again following the rise of social media: news is a constructed product of a long process of selection, filtering, and interpretation, and how this process unfolds may have changed in the new environment.

Traditional media still play a very central role in the production of news – but there are significant changes, especially through social media. People now can particate more fully in news making, alongside the professional journalists who are also on Twitter and in other social media spaces; social media play an especially important role in breaking news events, crisis and foreign news reporting. There is also a strong interplay between social and mainstream media, leading to what has been called a continuous "source cycle" in which both sides cross-influence each other.

This source cycle is at the centre of Steve's project, which is interested in intermedia agenda-building (a departure from more forthright agenda-setting). It investigates the May 2014 election campaign in Flanders, tracking newspapers, radio, television, online news sites, and social media. The latter collects tweets in the Flemish Twittersphere on a daily basis, by following a long list of accounts run by news organisations, journalists, politicians, parties, etc., and identifies the most influential tweets on the basis of how frequently they have been retweeted and/or favourited.

On the other hand, the news items collected from the mainstream news organisations are aggregated into the overarching news stories they relate to, enabling the researchers to trace their evolution and flow across various platforms. In combination with the social media data, the interrelationships between mainstream and social media should also become clearer, and aspects such as issue and actor diversity should be able to be assessed.