How journalists use social media: Between marketing and democratic purpose

Before web 2.0, journalists had the monopole of the information. The public needed their micro or camera to exist in the public sphere. Nowadays, people don’t need media anymore because social media are building a free public sphere in which everybody is able to diffuse information and express opinion freely. Social medias became major competitor for traditional media because they undertaking their role. In addition to that traditional media has to face mistruth crises. They are often accused to be too close from the economic interest and too far from the public interest.

To face these serious challenges media had two choices. The first one was to consider social media and citizen journalist as enemies. The second one was to consider social media as a tool and citizen journalist as an ally. Most of the media had considered the second solution as the more appropriate.

There is an increasing use of the social Medias by journalist

Journalist use social media to:

  1. Find information and new stories.
  2. Improve their management content by publishing information in social media. The use of podcasting or linking appears to be a relevant marketing tool.
  3. To interact with the audience and get feedback about their work.
  4. Feed-back and public opinion are used to adapt the media content to the public demand.

    1. Find information

According to a study realised by Oriella PR Networkbetween March and April 2011, social Media are considered more and more  like a relevant tools by journalist to collect informationand find new subject of interest.

This study is realised in 15 countries across North and South America and Europe and repeated every year since 2008.

It shows that almost 50% of the 500 interviewed journalists are using twitter to sourcing story and 35% of them are using Facebook for the same purpose. 30% of them are gathering stories from blog post they know and 40% with blogger they do not know.

According to a study made by the Arketi agency, there is an increased use of social media by traditional media. However, the reference to official channel is still the major method to search for information. Journalists are mostly referring to PR agency, public relations contacts and industry sources.

The numbers found by both study are quite similar when it’s concern social media use. However there is some differences when it comes to the numbers concerning the use of traditional source.  But the point is that both studies show that traditional sources remain the most use information source. Despite the increasing use of social media by journalist.


The use of Facebook’s profile to get information

Using Facebook profiles to get pictures and some information about people that are accused of crime become a wide spread practice in the journalist field. Facebook profiles allow journalist to find information about the personality of the accused person. If the profile is public there is much more information available.

An article published by BBC uk about the double attact commited by the sadly famous Andres Breivik in Norway is a good example to illustrate this way of collecting information.





Those pictures coming from Andres Breivik’s Facebook profile were used by a large amount of medias all around the word.





This extract of a article shows how personal information published on Facebook account can be useful to draw the Andres Breivik’s personality profile.


Facebook and private life protection

This kind of journalistic practice revel questions about privacy and image rights. Swiss’ legislationstats that image right is an absolute right. It means that no one has the right to publish a picture without the contentment of the pictured person. This law contains however an exception. If there is a public interest the picture can be published.  This law is ambiguous  because it’s difficult to draw the border of the public interest.

Twitter use to find information

Twitter is a good tool for journalists to get information rapidly. During relevant trial, political election or parliamentary reunions, a large amount of tweets are twitted. Journalist can sat behind their computer and following what’s happening minutes by minutes. Another advantage is that journalists can following many twitter account at the same time. So they can have access to divergent perceptions of the event.

Example of the election to the federal council 2011: The 14 of December RSR info posted almost 300 tweets about the election

2. Publish information

Facebook and twitter appear to be interesting management content tools. They can draw more traffic and permit to touch a wider audience. All the Swiss Radio and television (RST) shows have a twitter account and some of them have a twitter account. Those accounts are mostly used to post teasing for the next broadcast. Journalist also posts link and podcast to able the public to listen, watch or read what he has missed.

To be “friends” with the audiance is a useful marketing tool for journalist.  They are more likely to touch the audience because nowadays people are more on Facebook than behind the TV or the radio post.

Journalists can also use Facebook account to appeal witnesses for contribution to forum or interview.

The example of the shows On en parle of the RSR which use a Facebook account to optimised it content and ask for public contribution.

3. Get Feedback and interact with the audience 

The RTS stats that one of the objective of shows’ Facebook account is to allows the public to interact and have a dialogue with journalist.

On the whole, there is little interaction between journalists and public. Journalists rarely participate to debate. Some of them never answer to the public, other answer only at the practical request such as: “when journalist XY will come back in the show?” or “I don’t receive the newsletter anymore”.  Most of them answer to critics and bad feed-back.

There is some journalist like Darius Rochebin that act friendly with the audience. He answers sometime to comment, tell jokes and even put pictures of his little daughter.

4. Adapt content to the demand

Facebook accounts are useful to get feedback. Those feedbacks helps journalist to adapt their content to the public audience.

They can use critics to correct the mistake in their content.

They can know witch kind of subject the audience  :




They can make survey to get public opinion or advice.

All those information help them to be closer from the public demand and answer to it in a proper way.

What’s your opinion about that?

Do you think that the use of social media has an impact on the objectivity of the information?

Should the journalists interact more with the audience and express their opinion on Facebook or keep a distance with the audience?

If you have any other comments there are welcome!

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