National surveys on the use of social media in conducting professional journalism have been conducted for a number of countries, and the findings are insightful. For example, Cision & Canterbury Christ Church University’s Social Journalism Study 2011, that looked at ‘perceptions and use of social media among journalists in the UK’, found that 97% of journalists use social media for work during a typical week, but only 62% agree or strongly agree that social media has improved the productivity of their work. This being said, most journalists agreed that social media makes them more engaged with their audience, and that Twitter was the most popular social media platform. Age and media sector both had significant impacts on social media use and attitudes, demonstrating that a variety of factors influence the way social media is used.
A global study published in 2012 by the same group compared responses from eight different countries across the globe: Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, UK, and USA. This study found that Canadian journalists use social media the most, and were the most positive about the impact of social media on a journalist’s work, even if they weren’t the most positive about the impact of social media on journalism as a profession (this fell to Sweden). Other studies have focused the use of social media for sourcing stories, or on how social media has changed the production, distribution, and consumption of news. The results of these studies provide valuable insight into attitudes and practices surrounding social media use, as well as comparisons between national practices.
But what can we glean from this about actual Irish journalistic practices, on the ground, here and now? The differences between attitudes in the global surveys above demonstrate that we can’t make assumptions about the use of social media in Ireland without collecting raw data from professional journalists working in the country, nor can we assume that all journalists in one region follow similar practices. It’s widely known that press freedoms and constraints differ from country to country, but so does culture of journalism. Ireland, as a relatively small European state, is a place where people cross paths more frequently than in places with much larger populations or more diffuse geography. Do these factors matter, or does the journalist’s medium, age, and beat produce the most significant differences? What is the relationship between source, trust, verification, and medium? While a survey about social media practices may not touch on all the ways that Ireland’s cultural uniqueness shapes journalism, it will provide insight into the ways in which social media have affected sourcing, research, contact, and dissemination of news stories, and we expect that the granularity of our questions will provide rich data for analysis.
We’re very excited to see the results, and hope that our survey will add to the growing international body of research around the ways that emerging technologies and new ways of communicating shape contemporary journalism.
If you are journalist working in Ireland, please take ten minutes to fill out the survey.