Wednesday 26 May 2010

On journalists using blogs and other blogging research

There has been some interesting new research and comment in the realm of blogging and social media. So make yourself comfortable...(mug of tea, a biscuit perhaps).

Journalists using blogs

Claire Wardle, who runs the BBC's social media training, highlighted a few difficulties with the headline findings of some research by the Society for New Communication Research. Their report said:

"48% are using Twitter and other microblogging sites
66% of journalists are using blogs
48% are using online video
25% are using podcasts

Overall, 90% of journalists agree that new media and communication tools and technologies are enhancing journalism to some extent."

Wardle's ethnographic perspective combined with a take down of the methodology - (a web-based survey of 341 journalists means you are likely to select journalists who use the web most) - leads her to conclude that the figures don't resonate with the experience she has of training BBC journalists.

Importantly, she notes:
" very busy newsrooms, where resources are becoming increasingly limited (and I recognise the BBC is in a very special place in comparison to other newsrooms where income is not guaranteed), most journalists have not had the time to spend experimenting with these new tools. When your day is spent desperately trying to meet deadlines, there is no time to have a play with twitter, find relevant blogs, spend time verifying who the authors are, or battle with Facebook’s privacy settings."
Wardle also points out that there are significant difficulties over what 'using a blog' means. Does that just mean reading it? Or quoting it as a source? Or what does it mean?

My own research, which is based on interviews with BBC journalists from a wide-range of web-using and other backgrounds, supports Wardle's conclusions and concerns.

I would suggest that even when journalists have spent an initial period of time learning about the potential of the Web and playing with new tools there are still significant challenges facing these journalists when reporting the news in a pressurised, real-time and multimedia news environment.

Blogs do not always meet journalists' or their bosses' standards of efficiency and trustworthiness when they are trying to understand and report the factual basis of a news story. The demand for reliable information at speed means journalists often do not turn to blogs.

Time pressures on 21st Century journalists have been complicated by the volume of information available to them and the number of outlets through which they are expected to distribute their journalism.

Finding the time to access blogs, and verify what they have to say is not always possible or desirable, particularly if other sources of information provide a journalist with more reliable and less time-consuming options.

Blogs, the traditional media, and agenda setting

Meanwhile, A Project for Excellence in Journalism report looks at the extent to which the agenda on blogs and in the American traditional media differs. A couple of key points that caught my eye were these:
  • "Social media and the mainstream press clearly embrace different agendas. Blogs shared the same lead story with traditional media in just 13 of the 49 weeks studied. Twitter was even less likely to share the traditional media agenda – the lead story matched that of the mainstream press in just four weeks of the 29 weeks studied. On YouTube, the top stories overlapped with traditional media eight out of 49 weeks."
  • "While social media players espouse a different agenda than the mainstream media, blogs still heavily rely on the traditional press – and primarily just a few outlets within that – for their information. More than 99% of the stories linked to in blogs came from legacy outlets such as newspapers and broadcast networks. And just four – the BBC, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post accounted for fully 80% of all links."
It's worth reading what Amy Gahran has to say though on the latter point. She takes PEJ to task over its method of selecting blogs:
  • "PEJ apparently chose to count blog links coming mainly from a preselected portion of the blogosphere that focuses mainly on what mainstream news orgs are talking about. Given that context, it’s not surprising that they found that 99% of the outbound links from those blogs led to traditional news stories."


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