A collaboration between the School of Media and Public Affairs and the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has produced a new study, released today, that examines how news institutions and reporters use Twitter in their daily news outreach.
Students from SMPA's Spring 2011 Senior Seminars taught by Professors Kim Gross and Robert Entman spent a semester coding the data of thousands of tweets, providing content analysis and applying the theories learned in the classroom to real-world research.
“This study gave students the opportunity to work on a significant research project about an evolving medium,” says Professor Gross. “As most of our understanding of Twitter is based on anecdotal evidence, collecting and analyzing empirical data is very valuable to our understanding of it.”
Students also received guidance from SMPA alumnus Jesse Holcomb (M.A. ’09), now a Research Associate for the Project for Excellence in Journalism, who served as a link between SMPA and the Pew Research Center. SMPA Master's students, Rachel Weisel and Lauren Martens, were also involved in the project, with Weisel serving as one of the lead researchers.
The study, which analyzed more than 3,600 tweets from 13 major news organizations over the course of one week, yielded interesting findings. For example, the study showed that news organizations rarely used Twitter as a reporting tool or to recommend information that originated elsewhere. Just 2% of the tweets analyzed sought views or first-hand accounts from readers, and only 1% of tweets studied were “retweets” from a Twitter feed outside the organization.
“Tweets from news organizations mainly push out news content already published online on site they own,” says Professor Gross. “The same is true of reporters. As a result, these reporters are not building a personal brand, as they rarely interact with other Twitter users beyond reposting articles.”
Professor Gross attributes this to news organizations cautiously navigating through the interactive potential of Twitter due to concerns about adhering to journalistic rules.
“The codes of ethics for journalism have to be adapted for a new medium,” says Professor Gross. “Until that happens, news organizations will continue to use Twitter mostly as a promotional tool or another platform to disseminate news content.”
To read the press release, click here.