Journalists often claim that social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, have become important news sources, but have they? Researchers from Charles University in Prague studied Czech media to establish to what extent traditional journalistic methods are being replaced by social media platforms. They found that, despite the growing use of digital sources, their impact on mainstream news is still relatively low.
Most previous studies into social media and news have been conducted in Western Europe and the United States. Results have so far been conflicting. The Czech study, by thePolCoRe group at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University, aimed to provide a new perspective. Instead of looking at the impact of social media during particular news events, the researchers took a different approach. Václav Štětka, the PolCoRe group leader said: “We deliberately selected a period where no elections or any known significant events took place. Our data then better reflects how Czech media works under natural circumstances.”,,,
The analysis also showed that social media are used as a source – of both text and pictorial information – in topics such as sport, celebrities or crime – so-called ‘soft news’. This applies to all examined media, except for the financial newspaper Hospodářské noviny and the public radio station Český rozhlas, which used social media as a source of more serious, up-to-date news (‘hard news’).
Researchers also looked at how the selected media worked with social media information. They demonstrated this by noting which individuals were quoted from Facebook or Twitter (and YouTube, to a negligible extent): sportsmen (34% of articles mentioning social media as a source), followed by “common people” (24%), celebrities (15,5%), and politicians (15,2%).
The rather high percentage of “vox populi” could indicate that media are more open to non-elite voices. However, it has to be pointed out that “common citizens” were quoted only in connection with criminal topics and did not get any chance to comment on political or economic topics.
“The research has shown that the role of social media as a source of information for Czech media is still rather peripheral; it has also indicated that social media contribute to the trend of tabloidization of print, since they are hardly ever used as a source of hard news,” said Václav Štětka and Radim Hladík...