The Washington Post

Three charts that explain how U.S. journalists use social media

A new report from the Indiana University school of journalism sheds light on how U.S. journalists use social media to report the news.

In "The American Journalist in the Digital Age," journalism Profs. Lars Willnat and David Weaver surveyed 1,080 U.S. journalists online in the fall of 2013. It's the latest in a series of reports produced in roughly 10-year increments since 1971 about the behaviors and beliefs of U.S. journalists.

Of course, one of the major shifts between the last survey in 2002 and the most recent report was the impact of the Internet on reporters. Social media is a major part of that shift: 40 percent of journalists said social media networks are "very important" to their work and over a third said they spend between 30 and 60 minutes each day on social networking sites.

Microblogs like Twitter were by far the most popular type of social media used by journalists. Over half of those surveyed said they regularly use the platforms for gathering information and reporting out stories.  (Wait, isn't Twitter supposed to be dead?)


(University of Indiana School of Journalism)

The most common use of social media by journalists was to check for breaking news — nearly 80 percent said they regularly use social networking sites to stay on top of recent developments. But a full 73.1 percent specifically cited using social media to check in on what the competition is reporting on, and many other uses like finding ideas for stories and staying in touch with audiences were also quite popular.


(University of Indiana School of Journalism)

Many journalists also see social media as a vehicle for self-promotion — more than 80 percent agreed that it helped them share their work, and more than two thirds said they are more engaged with their audiences thanks to the platforms.


(University of Indiana School of Journalism)

But while 62 percent agreed that social media led to faster reporting, only 25 percent agreed that social media improved their own productivity and just 6.3 percent said it decreased their total workload.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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