Journalists use social networks, but they don’t trust them
UC3M/DICYT The majority of Spanish journalists use social networks in their daily work although they do not trust them. This is one of the main conclusions drawn from research done at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid (UC3M) that analyzes how communication professionals make use of these platforms.
This research examines the way that Spanish journalists use social networks as part of their work in order to find out the extent to which these networks are integrated into their productive routines. “The ones that are most used are Facebook and Twitter, mainly to publish information about the media outlet where they work, to learn users’ opinions, to detect new topics, to look for information and to contact sources,” explains Professor Eva Herrero Curiel, of UC3M’s department of Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, who has dedicated her doctoral dissertation to this subject.
From the terrorist attacks at Atocha station on the 11th of March of 2004 to the 15M social protest movement, the study is a theoretical and empirical overview of the growth that social networks have experienced in the area of journalism. Based on a poll of over 400 Spanish journalists, it attempts to offer an analysis of where the profession is at this moment, due to an ever-changing and fluid environment in which the various social networks have become additional journalist tools that can be found on the web 2.0. “The viral function of the ‘social media’ seems to be one the powers that makes it so attractive to journalists”, explains this researcher from the Periodismo y Análisis Social: Evolución, Efectos y Tendencias research group (PASEET – Journalism and Social Analysis: Evolution, Effects and Trends).
Paradoxes of information
In general, the journalists who have participated in this research consider that the social networks are less reliable than the traditional media, even though they make use of them, points out Herrero. In fact, one paradoxical piece of data shows that 36,34% of journalist report using social networks to contrast information, although 67% of those polled consider these sources to be less reliable than traditional communication media.
According to the conclusions drawn by the study, journalists do not believe that social networks offer professionalism, depth or credibility. Nevertheless, 93% of them consider them to be another tool of journalism and frequently use them to look for information (55,37%), detect topics (58,78%) or find out users’ opinions (59,27%). “These contradictions illustrate a still vacillating or ambiguous attitude on the part of professionals with regard to their journalistic regard for these platforms, at least in discursive terms”, comments Eva Herrero.
The use of these platforms also varies in function of the journalists’ age or place of work. Those journalists who work in communication services use the social networks more (98%) than those who work in news agencies (72,41%). There are similar results with younger professionals: 57,40% of those who are between 21 and 40 years old say they always use these networks in their work, whereas those who are over 40 only report using them frequently.
Periodistas y redes sociales en España: del 11M al 15 M (2004-2011). Journalists and social networks in Spain: from the 11th of March to the 15M (2004-2011). Dissertation by Eva Herrero Curiel. Director: Pilar Carrera Álvarez. Dpto. Periodismo y Comunicación Audiovisual. (Department of Journalism and Audiovisual Communication) UC3M.