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Top 8 Academic Articles: Rise of Social Media as a News Source

A 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center reported that two thirds of Americans count on social media for at least some of their news; 10% depend on it as their sole source for news.  This development has opened the door for a whole host of new research and study about the use (and abuse) of social media in this way.  This listicle represents the top 8 articles from academic journals reporting on some of that research.  The list is open for voting; your votes may change the rankings.

#1 All the President’s Tweets

Since the first Tweet in 2006, Twitter has increasingly become a platform for political and cultural change across the globe, with users live-tweeting all manner of events. This article from Social Media + Society specifically addresses the power of Twitter to alter users’ opinion of media sources, a power that has been greatly impacted by President Trump’s frequent tweets. The article argues that the rhetoric used by the President in his tweets, particularly his ridicule of the mainstream media, reduces public distrust in media sources and leads his supporters to buy in to his argument that that he is the only reputable news source.

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#2 Only a Pastime

This article from Social Media + Society explores the evolution of the use of social media as a news source, particularly by young consumers of the news, positing that reports of decreased consumption of the news by young people are inaccurate because they do not take into account the preference for social media reports over traditional sources. The article discusses benefits of social media reports, including immediacy and relevancy of reports, as well as the possibility of providing new insights and perspectives. However, the authors also point out various negative consequences to dependence on social media as a news source, such as frequently one-sided or biased reports, and come to the conclusion that even the users of social media may not yet regard social media reports as “real” news.

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#3 Do You Tweet When Your Friends Are Getting Shot?

This article from Social Media + Society explores the use of social media as an on-site reporting tool during times of crisis, examining reports during and immediately after a lone-wolf terror attack in Norway in July, 2011. Authors interviewed 8 survivors who used social media as a communication and reporting tool during the attacks and analyzed the reports that resulted from journalists’ use of the social media posts. The article concludes that social media play an important role in crisis communication and event reporting for both journalists and the general public and offers suggestions for appropriate use of social media reports by journalists.

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#4 Social Influence on Facebook News Channels

In response to declining circulation of print publications, news media have increased their presence on social media sites such as Facebook, knowing that new generations are increasingly turning to the sites for their sole source for current events. For this article from Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, the authors analyzed user comments and “likes” responding to several Facebook news posts to evaluate the impact peer reaction has to users’ opinions of the news posts. The article concludes that the most impact occurs when commenters disagree or offer alternative assessments to the new post.

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#5 Tapping Into the Millennial Mindset

With the evolution of social media, the directionality of obtaining information about current events may be shifting; rather than individuals actively seeking out knowledge of the news, it is possible that they are instead becoming passive recipients, waiting for news stories to come to them through social media. This article from the Journal of Social Media in Society explores how Gen Y (also often referred to as Millennials) obtains their news, finding that they rely on social media in increasing numbers. The authors do note, however, that despite their reliance on social media, members of this generation do report that they find traditional news sources to be more credible than social media sources.

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#6 Facebook Addiction and Political Gullibility

In the political realm, stretching the truth is a frequent tool used to garner support of followers; it can be argued that part of the job of the news media is help consumers sort the truth from the fiction. This article from the Journal of Social Media in Society examines how Facebook users who self-describe as “addicted” were affected by slanted news stories that originated on Facebook. The authors conclude that younger Facebook users were more likely to believe inaccurate stories.

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#7 Relationship Between Journalist and Audience in Web 2.0

This article from Advances in Journalism and Communication explores the evolving relationship developing between traditional journalists and a new group of consumers referred to as “produsers” – producers + users of social media in Web 2.0. The authors encourage journalists to maintain social media accounts that are easily accessible to the public. The article concludes that accessibility is key to engagement with their audience.

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#8 Journalistic Norms and Chat Apps

Smartphones and mobile apps have changed the relationship between journalists and consumers of news. This article from Mobile Media and Communication reports on a case study based on interviews with journalists in Hong Kong and China. The authors explore the ways in which the journalists use these apps to gather news, how they determine the credibility of their sources, and how they gain the trust of their readers when articles are based on information gathered from these sources.

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