A survey of nearly 500 journalists across 12 countries offers some insights into what reporters are doing on Twitter.
It found that nearly half of respondents (47 per cent) said they used Twitter to source new story angles, compared to 35 percent who used Facebook.
But conventional PR sources far outweighed the use of social media for story ideas, with 62 per cent of journalists sourcing stories from PR agences and 59 per cent from corporate spokespersons.
Journalists seemed more reluctant to turn to social media to help them with stories they were already working on. The survey found that only a third used Twitter to verify stories and just a quarter turned to Facebook.
In contrast, the use of traditional channels was far higher, with 61 per cent saying they used PR agencies for verification and 57 percent cited corporate spokespeople. The report by the Oriella PR Network concludes:
Social media are playing an increasingly vital role in news-gathering. Nonetheless, if a journalist needs to check a fact or verify a story, brands and their agencies remain the first ports-of-call.
So while social media is becoming part of the toolkit of some reporters, the media is still places greater value on traditional PR and corporate channels.
The findings suggest journalists may be uneasy about turning to networks such as Twitter to verify information, perhaps out of concerns the authenticity of a tweet.
But this also ignores that Twitter is not a faceless medium. As Paul Bradshaw has suggested, “every piece of information, and every person, leaves a trail of data that you can use to build a picture of its reliability.”
The reticence of journalists to use social media for verification is reminiscent of the initial response to the telephone.
In his post, Bradshaw recalled how journalists were sceptical about the use of the telephone, worrying about how verify that the person at the other end of the line was who they purported to be.
There is always a process of negotiation that accompanies the introduction of new communication technologies into the newsroom.
This results in a contested process, particularly when it comes to disruptive technologies such as social media.
Journalists tend to transfer their existing ways of working to new platforms, rather than rethink how their reporting might change in the open, public and highly connected spaces created through social media.