National Survey Finds Majority of Journalists Now Depend on Social Media for Story Research


Should we be surprised by this? Social media is a huge part of the everyday – where people are consistently posting about their lives, commenting on current events, and sharing information. With all this information so readily available, it was only a matter of time before journalists began to explore social media as an avenue to collect story information.

A national survey conducted by Cision and Don Bates of The George Washington University’s Master’s Degree Program in Strategic Public Relations found that an overwhelming majority of reporters and editors now turn to social media sources when researching their stories. Among the journalists surveyed, 89% said they look to blogs for story research, 65% to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and 52% to microblogging services such as Twitter. The survey also found that 61% use Wikipedia, the favored online encyclopedia.

While the results indicate the rapid growth of social media as a well-used source of information for mainstream journalists, the survey also highlighted that reporters and editors are keenly aware of the need to verify the information they pull from social media. Eighty-four percent said social media sources were “slightly less” or “much less” reliable than traditional media, with 49% saying social media suffers from “lack of fact checking, verification and reporting standards.”

Vice President of Research for Cision, Heidi Sullivan says, “Mainstream media have clearly hit a tipping point in their reliance on social media for their research and reporting; however, it’s also clear that while social media is supplementing the research done by journalists, it is not replacing editors’ and reporters’ reliance on primary sources, fact-checking and other traditional best practices in journalism.”

Although social media provides a wealth of new information to journalists, they know it is imperative that getting the story right is just as important as ever – the appropriate means for fact-checking must be made.

Don Bates, founding director of GWU Strategic Public Relations program, and writing/media relations instructor commented that, “As PR professionals increasingly utilize social media as a means of communicating, they have a bigger responsibility than ever to ensure the information they provide journalists is accurate and timely, provide access to the primary sources who can verify the facts, and be knowledgeable enough to provide accurate background and context.”

For a copy of the complete survey results, go to http://us.cision.com/journalist_survey_2009/

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