5 of the Most Fascinating Digital Media Studies of Fall 2018

Researchers in the field of digital media and journalism have focused a lot of attention on Twitter in recent months, examining how the busy platform influences people’s behavior, including the judgment of journalists. Below, we’ve collected five peer-reviewed articles we thought you might want to know about, three of which examine journalists’ relationships with social media. We’ve also included new research from researchers at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford that has implications for news branding and efforts to build public trust. in journalism.

Good reading! And remember, if you come across a good study that you think we should highlight, let us know at @JournoResource.

This article has been first published at Nieman Laboratory. It has been slightly edited to reflect Journalist’s Resourceeditorial style.

A common criticism of social media platforms is that they encourage like-minded people to form social networks that limit their exposure to different viewpoints and sources of information. There are growing concerns that these so-called “echo chambers” are fueling political polarization in the United States

This study, however, demonstrates that the opposite is true — at least for Republicans on Twitter. Researchers find that Republicans become more conservative when their Twitter feeds fill with posts reflecting opposing political ideologies.

For this study, researchers asked regular Twitter users who identified as Republicans or Democrats to follow a Twitter account that retweeted 24 posts every day for a month. Some people have been unknowingly assigned to Twitter accounts that retweet messages from elected officials, opinion leaders and others promoting opposing views.

The researchers found that Republicans’ attitudes became more conservative after following a Twitter account that retweeted liberal messages. Democrats who followed an account that shared conservative messages became slightly more liberal, although this change was not statistically significant.

“Our study indicates that attempts to present people with a wide range of opposing political views on a social media site such as Twitter could not only be ineffective but counterproductive – particularly if such interventions are initiated by liberals” , write the authors.

This study also examines how Twitter posts affect behavior – namely, the judgment of news. The key takeaway: Inexperienced reporters and reporters who regularly use Twitter at work considered anonymous, context-free tweets more newsworthy than Associated Press headlines.

In March 2016, 212 American journalists were asked to rate the timeliness of two sets of news. Some have seen two sets of headline spin-offs on the AP newswire. Other reporters received a series of anonymous tweets along with headlines that appeared to come from AP. Journalists rated the stories for their timeliness and importance and how strongly they possessed news values ​​such as timeliness and impact. Each reporter’s ratings were combined into a composite “media value” score.

The authors analyzed the responses of journalists taking into account their use of Twitter. Journalists labeled as “high frequency users” said they were on Twitter several times a day or logged in all day while “low frequency users” said they used it less often.

Both groups gave similar ratings to titles written in the AP format. However, high frequency Twitter users rated the tweets as more newsworthy than low frequency users.

The findings, according to the study’s authors, “suggest a profound disconnect between the concept of media interest and other important news values ​​such as credibility, objectivity and context.” They also note that if journalist interest “is a strong predictor of a story” going through “journalists to the public… then Twitter can be a channel through which citizen journalists or other members of the public can influence the mainstream news agenda”.

This study examines the link between who follows a journalist on Twitter and the partisanship of their work. Researchers find that political journalists who follow many Twitter users with conservative views tend to use more “right-wing” terms — “illegal immigrants,” “Obamacare,” and “tight regulations” are examples. Meanwhile, the more a journalist follows liberal-leaning reporting, the more likely they are to use left-leaning terms such as “equal work,” “marriage equality,” and “suffrage law.”

The researchers analyzed more than 300,000 news articles written by 644 journalists across 25 news outlets, looking for 114 terms that they believe represent strong right-wing or left-wing ideology. The research team, led by John Wihbey, assistant professor at Northeastern University and former editor of Journalist’s Resource, combined this data with information about journalists’ Twitter networks to assign ideological ratings to journalists and their agencies. Press.

The authors point out that they find no evidence that following certain Twitter accounts causes a journalist to write with bias. “There is no simple pipeline between social media and news media in terms of partisanship,” they write. “Yet the two are increasingly entangled, and studying their relationship is vital if researchers are to better understand the mechanisms of the emerging ecosystem.”

Most of the 25 publications studied demonstrated a liberal bias. But three of the largest mainstream media organizations — the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal — publish “fairly ideologically neutral or even fairly conservative content,” despite “widely left-leaning Twitter networks,” the authors note. .

Do people remember where they get their news from? And why is it important? Researchers at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism examine both questions.

Twenty years ago, the public generally received their news directly from newspapers, magazines, television and radio programs or by visiting the websites of news organizations. Today, people can search and access news in many ways, including through search engines, news aggregators, social networks, and mobile messaging apps.

Kalogeropoulos, Fletcher and Nielsen wanted to see how well people remember the name of the news outlet that produced a story they found through a search engine or social media. In early 2017, for a month, they tracked the browsing histories of 6,811 adults in the UK who agreed to install tracking software on their laptops or desktops. Researchers also interviewed participants 10 to 48 hours after viewing a news report.

Here’s what they found: When people went directly to a news website to access a story, they remembered the name of the outlet 81% of the time. But when they found a story through a search engine, they could only correctly identify the media 37% of the time. When they come across a news article on social media, they remember the name of the news agency that produced it 47% of the time.

The researchers also found that young people were more likely to remember news brands from news stories they accessed directly and found through social media. People with a higher level of education were more likely to recall outlets that produced information they found through a search engine.

These findings have implications for public trust in news and for the news industry, the researchers say. “We know that people use news branding (among other things) to instill trust in particular stories,” they write. “It seems entirely plausible that if the bond between brand and user is weakened, people’s overall level of trust in information may begin to decline.”

It is often assumed that there are differences in how journalists of different age groups think about using social media to promote their work and interact with the public. Wu’s findings indicate that “the digital divide in social media use among journalists is not whether young and old use social media; the divide is more between the types of social media they prefer to use,” he explains.

Wu, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Toledo, conducted an online survey of American journalists and editors from a range of paces between March 18, 2016 and April 30, 2016. He posed questions about how journalists use social media and how they plan to integrate these platforms into their work.

The researcher divided the 1,063 journalists who participated into three age groups. The “younger” journalists were 29 years old or younger. People between the ages of 30 and 49 were categorized as “middle-aged” while journalists aged 50 and over were categorized as “older” journalists.

Wu found that younger reporters preferred Twitter while older reporters preferred Facebook, and middle-aged reporters said they used both. He also found that, across all age groups, journalists tended to have a more negative view of social media if they engaged more on Facebook.

“The more middle-aged journalists interacted on Twitter, the more they tended to have a positive attitude toward social media,” Wu writes. a negative attitude towards social media.”

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