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How local television newsrooms’ social media policies are evolving

Patricia Cruz

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The study “Social Media Policies in U.S. Television Newsrooms: Changes over Time” by Anthony C. Adornato and Allison Frisch from Ithaca College looked at the ways in which way newsroom social media policies evolve in four areas.

The four areas were 1) journalists’ professional

and personal social media activities, 2) social media sources and content, 3) audience complaints, and 4) ownership of on-air talents’ accounts.

Social media policies, or SMPs, address how social media impacts gatekeeping and agenda-setting, and objectivity, bias and transparency in newsrooms. A previous study reveals that nearly all newsrooms have SMPs. They typically address how to appropriately use social media accounts and so on. 

In this study, two U.S. online surveys were conducted, in 2014 and 2020. The sample for the first study consisted of 526 news directors, while the sample for the 2020 study consisted of 512 news directors. In the latter study, a prenotification email was sent to the directors and in both cases, reminders were sent to increase the response rate. 

The surveys contained questions on all the four areas. The total number of participants for the 2014 study ended up being 126, and 110 for the 2020 study. The results revealed that 95% (2014) and 96% (2020) of the newsrooms had SMPs.

When it comes to the first area, professional media activities, the study revealed that nearly all had guidelines for the use of professional accounts (90% in 2014, 96% in 2020). For the use of personal accounts, there was an even more marked increase in the guidelines: 71% had such guidelines initially compared to 79% in 2020.

There were seven items on the questionnaire related to online conduct. Nearly all of the SMPs had guidelines on sharing of personal opinions on professional accounts ( 95% in 2014 and 99% in 2020). An increase in other elements was noted: sharing of political affiliation went from 70% in 2014 to 98% in 2020; advocating on behalf of issue/agenda went from 83% (2014) to 97%, among others.

The SMPs made little distinction between what is appropriate on the professional accounts and personal accounts. The data regarding maintaining a personal account versus a professional did not change between the studies significantly. 

When it comes to the second area, sources and content, there was a noted increase on allowing the “friending” of sources between 2014 (41%) and 2020 (60%). Though some still discourage the practice, less than 1% of stations said it was not allowed. In content, there were no guidelines on verification in 30% (2014) and 26% (2020). aA significant increase,  45% in 2014 to 77% in 2020, said they were required to ask permission before publishing an user’s photo or video.

For the third area, audience complaints, there was a decrease on whether the reporters are allowed to respond to complaints (19% in 2014, and 7% in 2020). Very few (4%) stations had no policy on the issue, and for nearly a half it depended on the complaint type. 

On ownership, it is an increasing policy for the stations to own the accounts of on-air talent (66% in 2014, 70% in 2020). On the question, only on the 2020 study,  on whether the leaving reporters are allowed to take their accounts with them if owned by the station, a plurality (43%)  selected no, 37% yes, and 20% “it depends”. There were also other further questions on the 2020 version. 

Although nearly all of the newsrooms had SMPs, a surprising amount had unwritten ones – 17% in 2014 and 22% in 2020. A majority of them (72%) had been revised in six years. SMPs are still a top-down exercise in most cases, with managers drafting the guidelines and only 30% (2014) and 26% (2020) asking for input from staff members. The authors note that this process should be evaluated more. 

They also comment on the conundrum that staff members are expected to humanize themselves on personal accounts, yet the guidelines which differ little from professional accounts leave little room to do so. 

The entire topic requires more empirical study particularly when it comes to journalistic autonomy and journalistic capital. The authors suggest that further studies could focus on how journalists from marginalized communities are allowed to share their lived experiences on social media under the SMPs.

The article  “Social Media Policies in U.S. Television Newsrooms: Changes over Time” by Anthony C. Adornato and Allison Frisch is in Electronic News. (open access).

Picture: untitled by Adem AY @ademay

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Journalism

Article: Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online

Patricia Cruz

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The study “Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online” by Michael Koliska from Georgetown University experimented on news consumers’ trust as brought on by transparency, and further, in the second experiment, explored the reasons for the findings in the first.

Transparency in journalism is defined as opening up the journalistic processes (production, decision making) to outsiders, i.e. making journalism more transparent. Karlsson (2010, 2020) further divides transparency into disclosure, participatory, and ambient transparency. 

Defining trust, on the other hand, in journalism has been tricky, as it has been associated with credibility. Kohring and Matthes (2007) define the four elements of trust: 1. trust in topic selectivity; 2. trust in fact selectivity; 3. trust in accuracy of descriptions, and 4. trust in journalistic assessment. 

This study recruited its participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform. There were a total of 1092 participants. They were presented with a news story about nanoparticles – a topic that was unfamiliar to most and therefore had a low risk of partisan opinions. The article was presented in six different webpages that had differing transparency items in them.

There were 11 different trust items in the first experiment. Based on the results, the hypotheses were rejected. They were H1: A a) production transparency news item and a b) producer transparency news item will be trusted more than a non-transparent item. H2: A full transparency (both production and producer transparency) news item will be trusted more than a) a non-transparent article, b) a production transparency article, and c) a producer transparency article. And H3a: A full transparency news item will be trusted more than a full transparent article that includes biased information about the producer. H3b: A producer transparency news item with neutral personal information will be trusted more than a producer transparency article with biased information.

Nevertheless, the participants agreed that the journalist was trustworthy and that they sometimes trusted the news media. On results, it was speculated that the participants did not recognize the transparency features as cognitive heuristics and did not interact much with the transparency items. 

The second experiment was similar. There were a total of 379 participants, who were not the same as in the first one. They were assigned to read the same article as in the first about nanoparticles, placed again on five different webpages with varying transparency features.  

Further on, the participants were asked to recall the transparency features (such as hyperlinks, author bio, editorial explanations etc.) and to recall specific information from the article and the transparency features. 

The participants recalled items such as the photo (84% of the ones assigned to the webpage with a photo) only 34% could correctly identify the journalist. Similarly, 53% of those who had seen an editorial explanation recalled it, but only 26% could recall a detail from it. Participants also had trouble recalling the individual transparency features they were exposed to.

It was noted that the participants had better recall on items that were part of the actual story than the ‘digitally outsourced’ transparency items. It is possible that this information is not adequately processed or they failed to acknowledge the utility of this information. 

In conclusion, it still remains unclear how the link between transparency and audience’s trust is created. The question remains on whether news consumers recognize transparency features as markers of journalistic quality.

The article “Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online” by Michael Koliska is in Journalism Studies. (open access). 

Picture: scrabble tiles spelling trust by Ronda Dorsey.

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Journalism

News ideology and media storms in France and Israel

Patricia Cruz

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The article “What Happens in the Eye of the Storm? News Ideology During Media Storms” by Doron Shultziner from Hadassah Academic College looked at the nexus of news ideology and media storms using two media storms to analyze the topic: the Yellow Vests Movement (2018) in France and the Occupy Movement (2011) in Israel.

Media storms are defined as events or topics that take up a substantial part of the coverage for a period of time. They typically peak after few weeks in the beginning and then begin to fade. They have been studied widely with various terms being applied to them like “media event” or “media hypes”.

In the past 15 years, there has been an increase in the amount of studies on media ideology. Measured against the hypothetical gold standard of pure objectivity, media bias can be seen when coverage varies from source to another in different weighings and so on, with professional considerations having been overtaken by ideological ones.

The ideology is often seen in framing – as in this case, left-wing media tends to frame the protests positively and right-wing negatively. This was one of the topics in this study.
There were two data sets for the study: the Israeli one and the French one. The Israeli dataset consisted of coverage from Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel Hayom, Maariv, Haaretz, Makor Rishon (a national-religious newspaper), and Yated Neeman (an ultra-religious newspaper). Israel Hayom, Makor Rishon, and Yated Neeman are right-wing, the rest are left wing.

The French dataset consisted of coverage from Le Figaro, Le Monde, Libération, and L’Obs – listed here from right to left ideologically. The articles from both datasets were coded either positive, negative, or neutral based on several criteria.

The results show that media storms are a multi-media phenomenon, affecting a number of newspapers at once. The findings also demonstrate a media bias: if professional considerations were the only thing that mattered, the coverage in left- and right-wing media would have resembled each other.

Instead, there was a trend of negative coverage in right-wing media and positive in left – and what is more, the lines of coverage moved to opposite directions, showing increased polarization. There were differences between the storms: in the Israel case the newspapers chose their sides early and there was no significant move, but in France the lines diverged as the media storm went on.

News ideology also operated through production bias mechanisms, such as sizing of articles or their placement in the newspaper (front page or somewhere else). Due to the differences of the two cases, the hypotheses regarding the decline stage of the storm were hard to assess.

The author notes that the study has implications for future research. It proposes that media storms may be high-risk events that even challenge the ideology and interests of the news organizations. As important, politically charged events become media storms, they may become political storms instead.

The article “What Happens in the Eye of the Storm? News Ideology During Media Storms” by Doron Shultziner is in International Journal of Communication. (free access).

Picture: Storm Approaching by Johannes Plenio @jplenio.
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Covering women’s sport: My sports journalism career highlights

Patricia Cruz

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There has never been a better time to work in women’s sport and for early-career sports reporters, the opportunities are endless.

Here, multimedia sports reporter Milly McEvoy shares how she has covered everything from the Olympics and Paralympics to international women’s cricket and football tournaments, only a year after finishing her sports journalism course.

In June 2021, fresh off finishing my Multimedia Sports Journalism qualification with in Manchester, I made the move down to London to join Sportsbeat as a reporter.

It feels like a lifetime ago, but what has come in between also feels like a blur – it has involved international rugby and football, the British Athletics Championships and domestic cricket and netball (and lots more) in person. 

I have also covered the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, Wimbledon, the Commonwealth Games, remotely and I have had the opportunity to interview sportspeople involved from the grassroots to the top of the game. 

On top of all that, I spent two months covering the Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand. 

As I came to the end of my history degree in 2020, I already knew I wanted to be a sports journalist, but I started thinking about what form that would take. 

I quickly settled on women’s sport. 

I had always kept an eye on women’s sport, and proudly say the first sporting event I ever attended was a Women’s Euros football match in 2005, but my interest in sport came from what was easily available – and even two years ago most women’s sport wasn’t. 

2020 was a slippery slope to full-on obsession including listening to the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup final on 8 March in the early morning on the radio. 

Even across the airwaves, the sound of 86,174 people packing into the MCG showed to me that there was plenty of appetite for women’s sport, people just need to be able to see it – and read about it. 

Fast forward two years and Australia were winning another World Cup, but this time, I was there to see it with my own eyes before heading to the press conference to speak with captain Meg Lanning. 

What had led to that point at around 9pm on 3 April 2022 was two months covering one of the most exciting tournaments cricket has ever seen, and I’m luckily not yet jaded enough to have cursed having to rewrite my match reports as momentum swung wildly in several games. 

I learnt so much from covering that World Cup producing over 120 previews, reports, reaction pieces and features, but my favourite one was the last thing I did in Aotearoa, speaking with a slightly hungover Grace Harris the day after she had won the World Cup. 

Having returned to the UK, I enjoyed a full circle moment in July as I covered the Women’s Euros, and just like the 2020 T20 World Cup, I watched from afar as 87,192 fans cheered the home team to victory. 

Except, this time I was writing the match report for the Lionesses and I couldn’t get into the Wembley press box because there were so many people eager to cover women’s sports. 

It feels like England’s win will be a turning point for women’s sport, one that is long overdue, and I am excited to be part of what is to come and grateful and proud to have been a small part of what has already been. 

You can find out more about our multimedia sports journalism course here.

For a taster of our award-winning journalism training, sign up for one of our free workshops here.

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