What Is the Role of Social Networking Platforms in Mainstream News Production? (Working Title)
In the past, scholars have mostly agreed on the principal viewpoint that the creation of news was a tightly‐held, closely monitored, top-down, elite process that involved the interactions and interventions of only a small number of professionals such as politicians, officials, communications staff and journalists. Recent trends of media convergence and perpetual innovations in information and communication technologies induced significant shifts in the news ecology, reconfiguring the traditional news model. Journalists are now tapping into the viral circulation of online content, embedding it into their news coverage and associated production techniques. Significant political news stories now often first break online and are picked up by journalists who obsessively follow their email, Twitter, and blog feeds, hunting for new leads and sources. Many recent incidents exemplify the changing nature of news production, such as the 2009 Iranian election protests, the Arab Spring and the Syrian Uprising. During all of those events, social media platforms, such as Twitter and YouTube, have become a major channel of journalistic information sourcing and dissemination. Despite the undeniable presence and pertinence of those observations, substantiated and quantifiable findings explaining these phenomena are yet surprisingly absent. As a result, my study specifically asks: what are the roles of social networking platforms in mainstream news production? Furthermore, it seeks to shed light on the following sub questions: • what are the corresponding implications for the normative standards and ethics of journalistic production and a respective professional identity? • to which degree, if at all, can patterns of usage help to determine a journalistic media logic which explains the integration and use of social networking platforms in mainstream news production? I will draw on theories of media convergence, homogenization and fragmentation to contextualize these trends within the contemporary media landscape. Because of the project’s highly topical nature, emerging concepts and buzzwords such as “social journalism”, “networked journalism” and the “hybrid media system” will continue to inform my theoretical angle. Using a hybrid approach (in successive sequence) consisting of content analysis of selected case studies and expert interviews with media professionals and journalists, I aspire this study to add to the yet relatively small amount of existing research on the role of social media in journalistic news production and ultimately contribute to the broader understanding of developments in the current and future news ecology.