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Social Media Sourcing Practices in the Czech Republic

The next speaker in this ECREA 2016 session is Radim Hladík, who shifts our focus to the Twitterisation of Czech news. He begins by noting the fact that journalism now exists in a hybrid media system where old and new media meet and interact in a variety of ways; just how these interactions take place is not necessarily clear or predictable, however. In particular, there are questions about intermedia agenda-setting dynamics between conventional and social media, exploring how online sources are used to complement or supplant conventional sources.

Longitudinal studies that examine changes in sourcing practices, in particular, remain largely absent. However, it appears that social media are predominantly used in the context of 'soft' news, and as secondary rather than primary sources. The present study explores such sourcing practices in the Czech Republic between 2013 and 2015, focussing on a mixture of quality and tabloid national dailies, TV channels, and online news sites and on social media content from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and (in 2015) Instagram.

Sourcing from social media has grown considerably from 2013 to 2015, and especially in some of the quality press; interestingly, the balance has swung from Facebook to Twitter here, as sourcing from Facebook has declined and sourcing from Twitter has grown. This appears to indicate, in particular, a shift in balance in the political uses of these platforms; more tweets (rather than Facebook posts) by politicians are now being quoted, while Facebook has grown as a source for vox-pops from ordinary users.

Twitter has also become the substantially preferred source for hard news content, even within an overall increase in social media sourcing for hard news stories; similarly, overall social media are now used considerably more as primary sources than they were in 2013. Aligned with this is a greater focus on textual over visual content; there is a move away from social media as cheap sources of celebrity images, and towards their use to source political talking-points, it seems.

Twitter has therefore surpassed Facebook as the main news source, even if Facebook is by far the more popular social media platform in the Czech Republic. This points to changing sourcing practices amongst professional journalists in the country, and appears to be aligned especially with the increased use of Twitter by Czech politicians, as well as with the growing acceptance of social media as legitimate sources.