7th January 2015
For Immediate Release
First national survey on Irish Journalists’ use of social media released. Results reveal the ways in which social media shapes journalism
In a world where the first person to see and write about a breaking news event is a random individual with a smart phone, instead of a seasoned reporter in the field, what role does social media play in contemporary journalism? How does the availability and use of social media platforms shape the news production lifecycle? These and many more questions are being addressed for the first time in the Irish context by a new survey launched today.
After collecting and analysing data from hundreds of professional journalists working in Ireland, the Digital Humanities and Journalism group of the Insight Centre at the National University of Ireland, Galway has launched a comprehensive report: Social Journalism Survey: First National Survey on Irish Journalists’ Use of Social Media (2014).
Dr. Natalie Harrower, the Digital Repository of Ireland’s Manager of Education and Outreach, and co-author of the report, said: “This survey is very timely, because social media has become a significant factor in the writing of contemporary history – it is shaping the way that contemporary society is documented, and therefore it demands our attention as a candidate for long-term preservation. DRI was keen to contribute to this project because social media it is being widely adopted by professional journalists as a source for news leads, but it is also a rich source of research data for scholars. Like a lot of born-digital material, however, it is ephemeral if not preserved properly. We are at risk of losing it, and in turn, losing an important and diverse part of our social record”.
DRI is also collaborating with the Digital Humanities and Journalism Group at Insight @ NUI Galway on the ‘Social Repository of Ireland’ feasibility study, which is developing tools to preserve event-based social media for Ireland, as well as writing guidelines around best practices in social media archiving and preservation. DRI’s Director, Dr. Sandra Collins, stated “we are very pleased to have contributed to this survey, as it complements the research we are conducting on best practices for social media preservation through the Social Repository of Ireland project. It also helps focus a light on the importance of preservation planning for born-digital material, so that all varieties of Ireland’s social and cultural record can be preserved for posterity. We believe the survey makes a significant contribution to understanding how social media is shaping the contemporary information landscape.”
The survey was open to all professional journalists working in Ireland, and was distributed widely to attract the broadest possible set of responses. In sum, the survey collected information from journalists working in all areas of reporting, from Irish news to world news, and from arts through business, lifestyle, sports, and technology. Respondents for the most part identified as skilled users of social media, and worked for a wide range of media, from print to broadcast to online-only publications.
“The survey reveals that the vast majority of journalists in Ireland use social media for sourcing news leads, content, and verifying information, but the majority still believe that, without external verification, the information cannot be trusted,” says co-author Dr. Bahareh Heravi, who leads the Digital Humanities and Journalism Research Group (Insight @ NUIG) that that initiated the survey. “Very few journalists use specialist tools to validate information, instead relying on the practice of contacting individuals directly. While this practice upholds traditional journalistic procedures for verifying information, in the age of social media, it is an increasingly time consuming process”.
The survey poses a wide variety of questions to journalists, in an effort to reveal how journalists integrate social media into their workflows, how they perceive the information they find through social media, and what steps they take to investigate a social media sources’ validity. Overall, the survey reveals that Irish journalists have integrated social media into their journalistic practices quite heavily: 99% of Irish journalists use social media, with half of those using it daily. While most journalists believe that using social media makes them more engaged with their audience and with other journalists, over half state that they believe social media is undermining traditional journalistic values. While social media is most popular with journalists for sourcing leads and content, a minority believe that content found on social media can be trusted, and rely on contact with ‘real world’ sources for verification. In sum, social media – as part of the news production lifecycle – is here to stay, but its use is not without precaution and effort.
The report has been published on the Digital Humanities and Journalism Group’s website at http://hujo.insight-centre.org/socialjournalism2014/ and is being launched at the ‘Citizen Journalism and Social Media Archiving’ mini-track at the 48th HICSS conference (Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences) on 7th January 2015. The session is co-chaired by two of the survey report authors - Dr. Bahareh Heravi (HuJo, Insight at NUI Galway) and Dr. Natalie Harrower (Digital Repository of Ireland, Royal Irish Academy).
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