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Twitter-Based Journalist/Politician Interactions in Germany

The final paper in this ECREA 2016 session is by Christian Nuernbergk, whose focus is on the interaction of political and journalistic actors via social media. Both now have to deal with emerging personal publics in social media, in addition to their conventional mass media publics; they now need to have in mind a range of such publics in their everyday professional practice.

It is no surprise that politicians' social media activities now also shape journalistic coverage, then. Journalists research background information and track politicians' activities using Facebook and (especially) Twitter; and these platforms are perceived as increasingly important and influential by all actors.

Part of this is about personal branding: developing one's personal positioning rather than representing a larger group or organisation. These developments must be understood at micro- (personal), meso- (organisational), and macro-levels (systemic), and must be explored against the backdrop of the specific platform affordances of the social media tools being used here.

Christian's project examined Twitter-based interactions between members of the German Bundestag and members of the German press corps (the BPK); this pointed mainly to interactions from journalists directed at the leading politicians. These are often one-sided; only 46% are two-sided, involving replies from the politicians to the journalists. This is because journalists often mention politicians as they are promoting new articles about these journalists, or as they are engaging in livetweeting activities. Additionally, most of this is professional in tone; there are only a small number of more personal exceptions. Conflict-related interactions remain very rare, given the professional dependency of journalists on politicians.

At the same time, politicians are somewhat more likely to reply to ordinary users than to journalists; but engagement chains usually remain short and are rarely between more than two or three users. When users become involved, the tone of the discussion tends to turn more emotional.

So, journalist tweets are directed preferentially to leading politicians; this represents a professional exchange, and remains largely civil and not overly critical. Journalists focus on politicians and tend not to engage strongly with other types of users. There are opportunities here to extend this analysis to cover other forms of interactions between a broader range of users, too.