Social Media and Fake News: Understanding News Media Professionals Perspective

Disclaimer: Here, “journalist” is meant to include any and all media industry professionals.

 This post appears courtesy of Cision. The Sixth Annual Social Journalism Study is the latest installment in a series of national and international reports charting the changes in how journalists and media professionals use social media in their work and when communicating with PR and communications professionals. This report focuses on findings from U.S. journalists and media professionals.

As the prevalence of fake news both in our lexicon and in practice increases, journalists appear apprehensive of the PR industry. PR professionals should take the time to understand journalist needs and to provide high-quality resources that help journalists with their increasingly digital responsibilities.

The Cision 2017 Global Social Journalism Study states that over half of journalists describe fake news as undermining their area of journalism. Further, across verticals, journalists question the trustworthiness of PR professionals between 40 and 65 percent of the time. Not only is fake news a concern for journalists, but some of them attribute it to communications professionals.

Key findings from the study include:

1. Social networking is most popular, with 42 percent of survey participants holding five or more accounts.

In past years, Cision studies have found high usage rates amongst journalists for microblogs such as Twitter and Snapchat. However, this year’s study saw a decrease in microblogging and an increase in traditional social media platform usage, such as Facebook and Google+.

2. The six different types of social media users are: Architects (disseminating content), Promoters (promoting content), Hunters (watching trends), Messengers (networking and interacting), Observers (monitoring content and interacting with audiences), and Skeptics (rarely or not at all relying on/using social media).

These six types of social media users are on a spectrum of sorts, with architects and promoters having the most positive attitudes about social media, and observers and skeptics having the least amount of faith in it.

3. Although the use of social media is dependent on each journalist’s characteristics and audiences, time spent on social media remains the same.

Journalists report using social media daily for work purposes, exceeding 3+ hours per day on platforms. This year’s results yielded a 4 percent decrease in journalists who reported being on no social media platform at all.

The importance of demographics and audiences is prevalent in the results: journalists specializing in current affairs and politics spent the most amount of time on social media in comparison to their general news, business, and entertainment counterparts.

Age also plays a huge role in the amount and type of social media usage. As expected, younger journalists between the ages of 18 and 27 were more likely to use social media than older journalists, mostly between the ages of 46 and 64.

4. Content creation and dissemination remains the top reason for social media usage amongst journalists.

The study found that the three main reasons journalists use social media are to disseminate their content, create a dialogue with fans/followers, and observe changes in social media trends (not surprising that the majority of journalists are Observers). A whopping 67 percent of journalists in this survey said publishing their work on social media was of the upmost importance, while another 60 percent said it was important to engage with the audience.

5. Forty-eight percent of journalists who responded to the survey said they could not effectively do their jobs without social media. Similarly, 51 percent feel the “fake news” phenomenon is a pressing concern in the field.  

In the past, this survey’s results have pointed to an ambivalence in journalist’s opinions toward social media. This year, nothing has changed. Almost half of the survey’s participants said they could not do their job without social media, highlighting the importance of this phenomenon in the work of journalists. As with most things, however, social media popularity within journalists comes with its downfalls: more than half of participants pinpointed “fake news” as a pressing issue in the industry. The survey revealed a staggering number of journalists (77 percent) who think that social media is encouraging journalists to think in terms of speed and not accuracy. That is, the news journalists obtain from social media can be convenient and quick to process, but not always accurate.

Methodology:
Respondents for this survey were limited strictly to journalists within Cision’s online database (over 1.5 million users). 257 responses were recorded during April and May of 2017. The data was mainly interpreted for the uses behind social media by journalists, as well as the frequency with which journalists depend on social media to complete their jobs. The survey is conducted annually to enhance the PR field with the best information possible regarding social media influence in the media industry.

For the full study, please visit Cision’s 2017 Global Social Journalism Study.


Genesis Gonzalez is a third year Psychology major at the University of Florida, pursuing a career in Public Relations. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @ohyeahgenesis.

Posted in [Research Library], New Technology / Social Media.

2 Comments

  1. Serious journalism is essentiell to fight against “alternative facts” or fake news! The question is, in which manner serious journalism can use social media.

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