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The (Social) Mediatisation of Journalism

I'm chairing the final session at ECREA 2016, and once more we're talking about the future of journalism. Ulrika Hedman is the first speaker, and she begins by highlighting the increasing amount of social media monitoring that is being done by the early adopters amongst professional journalists. Such journalists are beginning to combine news media logic and social media logic, and this makes their professional activities considerably more complex.

News media logic has a number of dimensions: it links production (where journalists are gatekeepers, select content, and engage in objective storytelling), distribution (to paying audiences), and media usage (where audiences consume content passively and as masses). Journalists are therefore professionals, guided by their own norms, values, strategies, and practices.

In social media logic, on the other hand, other norms apply: production seeks to maximise attention and mixes professional and personal content; distribution is guided by virality and metrics, and pays attention to networks; media usage is bound by peer networks and selective exposure; and this contributes to an ambient flow of news in which journalists aspire to being central hubs

Some leading social media adopters amongst journalists are such hubs; they are constantly online and constantly monitoring the impact metrics for their social media presences and activities. This can be described as the mediatisation of journalism: journalism is increasingly dependent on (social) media logic in the conduct of its core activities.

How, then, do journalists present themselves, and their profession, on Twitter? Ulrika conducted a strategic snowball sample of Swedish journalists' Twitter accounts that resulted in a representative sample of some 2,500 accounts, and engaged in a corpus analysis of the texts in their profile information.

Almost all journalists identify their personal names and identify themselves as journalists, reporters, editors, etc. Tabloid and metropolitan journalists are most likely to present their contact information, while some others provide very little information about this or about their employers. Journalists frequently also provided some personal information about the things and people they 'liked' or 'loved', including family, sporting teams, and specific causes.

A small group of leading journalists accounts for the majority of followers, followings, as well as tweets posted; this is a typical long-tail distribution. Such journalists often worked at news organisations with the highest reach.

This shows a negotiated accommodation to social media logic: those journalists who fully accommodate are more audience-oriented, more networking, more individualistic, and mix personal and professional elements most strongly, and in doing so set a standard for others; those others, however, follow their lead only hip to a point and remain reluctant to fully accommodate such logic. Perhaps this might leads to the deprofessionalisation of journalism.