Horizontal communication and the evolution of journalism

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Presentation given at "Networking Democracy? New media innovations in participatory politics" in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, June 2010.

This project uses an examination of Twitter and Facebook posts about climate change to consider how horizontal communication structures are changing journalistic practices, and in turn, affecting the creation of public agendas.

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  • However, coverage doesn’t appear to have changed substantially over time. What accounts for variation in opinion?
  • Horizontal communication and the evolution of journalism

    1. 1. Horizontal communication networks and the evolution of journalism Donica Mensing, PhD. Reynolds School of Journalism University of Nevada, Reno [email_address]
    2. 2. Summary <ul><li>This project uses an examination of Twitter and Facebook posts about climate change to consider how horizontal communication structures are changing journalistic practices, and in turn, affecting the creation of public agendas. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Climate science <ul><li>“… The basic consensus is almost universally accepted. That is, the planet is warming, that human activities are contributing to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (chiefly, but not exclusively CO2), that these changes are playing a big role in the current warming, and thus, further increases in the levels of GHGs in the atmosphere are very likely to cause further warming which could have serious impacts.” </li></ul><ul><li>Guardian.co.uk, 25 June 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/25/what-climate-scientists-think </li></ul>
    4. 4. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2010) <ul><li>97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the findings about climate change outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change </li></ul><ul><li>The relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of human caused climate change are substantially below that of convinced researchers </li></ul>
    5. 5. Gallup Poll, March 11, 2010 http://www.gallup.com/poll/126560/americans-global-warming-concerns-continue-drop.aspx
    6. 8. Journalism and climate change <ul><li>Significant journalistic resources dedicated to the subject over the past 20 years </li></ul><ul><li>Yet coverage is often sporadic, lacks context, focuses on conflict </li></ul><ul><li>Balancing viewpoints to achieve “objectivity” gives undue credibility to some sources </li></ul>
    7. 9. Changes in communication <ul><li>The structure of communication and information flows is changing, adding an active horizontal dimension (Benkler, Castells) </li></ul><ul><li>Communication is now mobile, global, peer to peer, asynchronous (horizontal) as well as institutional (vertical) </li></ul>
    8. 10. Agenda setting theory <ul><li>Agenda setting is the process that determines what issues are considered most important (salient) by the public, and by legislators, candidates, and politicians. (Dearing & Rogers, 1996, p. 8). </li></ul><ul><li>Media agenda setting refers to the influence of the media on public and policy agendas </li></ul><ul><li>Agenda setting is also influenced by public relations (Ohl, 1995), interpersonal communication (Wyatt, Katz and Kim, 2000) and other audience factors. </li></ul>
    9. 11. Questions <ul><li>How do horizontal communication networks affect the practices of journalism? </li></ul><ul><li>How might these changes in journalism effect media agenda setting/agenda building? </li></ul>
    10. 12. Social networks <ul><li>Facebook is now the most popular online site after Google. Every day a third of all online users globally access the site for an average of 30 minutes (NYT reaches 1.2% of the Internet population for 4.8 minutes a day) </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter is the 11 th most popular site online. Approximately 300,000 people create new accounts daily. </li></ul>
    11. 13. Study design <ul><li>Downloaded 50* Facebook updates and 50 Twitter posts in English that mentioned the word “climate” and were relevant to climate change every night for five nights </li></ul><ul><li>Collected 413 posts for analysis </li></ul>
    12. 15. Who is posting?
    13. 16. Seven observations about changes in news practices on social networks
    14. 17. News is for sharing <ul><li>80% of all posts included a link to an information source </li></ul><ul><li>People like to share what they are reading and viewing </li></ul><ul><li>Social networks facilitate conversation about news, encourage action and provide interpretation. Conversation about the news has been shown to increase knowledge. </li></ul>
    15. 18. News is persuasive <ul><li>Users post links to make a point, sway opinions, convince others to act </li></ul><ul><li>41% of all links were to mainstream news sources </li></ul><ul><li>59% of all links were to partisan news sources, alternative news, interest groups, bloggers </li></ul>
    16. 19. News and information are found in many places
    17. 20. News distribution is story-by-story <ul><li>The prominence of stories is determined by friends and followers, not by editors </li></ul><ul><li>“ News finds me” -- news is consumed as part of social interaction, not by appointment </li></ul><ul><li>Stories are stripped of context, placement, timing; brand becomes less important </li></ul>
    18. 21.   News has new forms and new authors
    19. 22. The Guardian is one major media brand making the transition to networks <ul><li>No media organizations used Facebook to promote climate stories in the selected study sample; all were on Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>The most linked to stories on Twitter were from the Guardian (UK) </li></ul><ul><li>The most popular Twitter feed was by the Guardian </li></ul><ul><li>Example: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/apr/16/google-climate-chief-price-carbon </li></ul>
    20. 24. News is global <ul><li>One each: Bolivia, Bulgaria, Denmark, El Salvador, Greece, Haiti, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE </li></ul>
    21. 25. News on social networks is continuous and voluminous <ul><li>River of news is flowing constantly </li></ul><ul><li>On Twitter, climate related posts are being posted at the rate of 100+ per hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (one week = 16,800 posts) </li></ul><ul><li>The five most visited online news sites posted four short stories about climate change during the week of this study (BBC, New York Times, Yahoo, Google, CNN) </li></ul>
    22. 26. Implications <ul><li>News is determined more by personal networks than by professional editors </li></ul><ul><li>News consumption is more interactive, more social, more value driven </li></ul><ul><li>It is more difficult for mainstream media to maintain agendas </li></ul><ul><li>There is no single ‘media agenda;’ agendas become highly personalized </li></ul><ul><li>Agenda setting likely to be far more complex and chaotic than in the past </li></ul>
    23. 27. The future <ul><li>Need to develop structures for integrating and co-producing professional news in social networks </li></ul><ul><li>Need to understand how variations in network design affect news creation, distribution, conversation and deliberation </li></ul><ul><li>Need to develop process mechanisms for editing, curation and knowledge building, and ultimately improved civic capacity </li></ul>
    24. 28. Thank you

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