Romanian political parties that get online win elections. A new study shows that political parties in Romania mobilized social media networks at the last election to promote their political image and messages, and that there are now clear links between the degree of support for parties in general elections and their support online.
The German media overestimate the impact of Twitter and downplay the use of other social media networks, according to new research published by the Department of Communication at the University of Mainz, Germany.
Researchers Birgit Stark, Stephan Geiss and Melanie Magin, have analysed the relationship between the frequency of mentions of social media in article and the number of actual users. They found that even though only 3 percent of all Internet users in Germany over the age of 14 use Twitter, it is the second-most covered social network after Facebook.
It’s certainly no secret, for better or worse, Twitter is changing the way journalism is produced and received. Austrian journalist Nadja Hahn investigated the question of why social media is important for journalism. In collaboration with POLIS, and the London School of Economics and Political Science, Hahn and Eurovision surveyed and conducted a series of interviews with opinion leaders, with the results summarized in a white paper titled, “What Good is Twitter? The Value of Social Media to Public Service Journalism.” To show how social media can facilitate the work of public service broadcasters and add value to their reports, Hahn collected data via a survey distributed to public service news broadcasters and national radio broadcasters in the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), asking them how they use social media and how it affects competition. The results of the survey – of which no information is given about the method used or the size of the sample – contain elements worthy of consideration as well as interesting indications.
Roughly a third of UK journalists say that they would not be able to conduct their editorial work without social media, and 39 percent of respondents said that social media has improved their productivity. These are the main findings from the annual Social Journalism Study conducted by Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University, which surveyed 3,650 journalists from 11 different countries – including the UK, France, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the US, Canada, and Australia – of which 769 were from the UK. The results of the study show that Twitter is the most popular among journalists (used by 80 percent of respondents) and has increased in popularity by 10 percent compared to the previous year, followed by professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn, preferred by 76 percent of respondents, and Facebook, used by 72 percent of the surveyed journalists.
In disciplines like politics, economics, and consumerism as well as in journalism, the issue of transparency has become an important value. Globalization, the Internet, and the first generation of digital natives are working as engines in this process. On hotel rating platforms, for example, transparency can be regarded as a business selling argument – or as the contrary. In any case, transparency creates accountability and reliance. These findings are transferable to the field of journalism, especially in a digital world. Transparency prospers in a linked medium, for you can literally see the connections between the final draft’s claims and the ideas that support it. Print newspapers, on the other hand, lacks hyperlinks. You can look up the footnote, but that’s an expensive and time-consuming activity more likely to result in failure than success. The present era can be described as the Age of Links and transparency as the “embedded ability to see through the published draft“ (Weinberger 2009). In a wired world of global connection and social networks, it seems almost impossible to manipulate recipients, censor information, or suppress discussion and debate. Media users all over the world have easy access to a fast, free, and ubiquitously accessible discourse on media and its contents via social media and the Web 2.0. Nevertheless, Arab journalists work within completely different conditions compared to their colleagues in the Western world. With the help of occasional self-censorship, they try to protect themselves against the regime, especially in Egypt. Despite these constraints, Arab journalists attempt to work as transparently as possible, they can be contacted via e-mail or telephone in addition to feedback, comments, and advice received from viewers, listeners, and readers.
Definition of journalistic transparency:
U.S. media scholars Stephanie Craft and Kylie Heim (2009) characterize the notion of transparency across all disciplines as the “availability of information and as a disclosure of it” (ibid.). U.S. political scientist Ann Florini (2002), instead, describes transparency as the opposite of secrecy and confidentiality: “(…) Secrecy means deliberately hiding your actions; transparency means deliberately revealing them. This element of volition makes the growing acceptance of transparency much more than a resigned surrender of the technologically facilitated intrusiveness of the Information Age” (ibid.). Business analysts Don Tapscott and David Ticoll (2003) consider transparency from the perspective of economics and approach the concept in their first general definition: “Transparency is information about an organization that is available to people or other organizations…” (ibid.). They describe transparency as an “Engine of Greatness,” as a force for innovation and future, and rely on models of success, among other platforms like eBay, where transparency and rates make sense. From the perspective of media economics, transparency in journalism can be regarded as a strategic option of trust in order to avoid losing recipients and to stabilize the media brand (Meier, 2010; Evers / Eberwein, 2011). Despite their potential, journalists are often afraid to use tools to create transparency and publicity. The journalists’ ambition has never been to disclose how and under what circumstances a journalistic contribution has arisen (Meier / Reimer, 2011). In comparison to the term “accountability,” the concept of “transparency” does not implicate the effect. In previous studies on the subject, a clear-cut delineation between instruments of transparency and the method of “media accountability” was missing (Fengler et al., 2011). The difference lies in the definitions, especially in the fact that transparency instruments themselves are descriptive, while “media accountability” is normative. The ethically desirable establishing of trust is not implied in the description of transparency instruments. Craft and Heim (2009) describe “accountability” as the result of transparency and believe that transparency instruments ultimately help to establish trust in the media: “This implied linkage among readers’ ability to witness, to evaluate, and, therefore, to trust, indicates the valued role transparency plays in facilitating journalistic accountability.” (ibid.)
A categorization of transparency tools:
In journalism, various instruments for creating transparency can be found. Journalism scholars distinguish between journalism-internal and journalism-external instruments (Evers / Eberwein, 2011; Bettels et al., 2011). On one hand, internal instruments like the by-line, deep links, or additional information, are classified as transparency tools that are created by journalists and that occasionally lead to more information on the editorial department, on journalistic work processes, on sources, and on editorial decision processes (Bettels et al., 2011). On the other hand, there are external instruments like media journalism, academic research, blogs, media criticism in social networks, or online comments that also lead to a certain form of transparency (Fengler, 2008; Eberwein et al., 2012). Moreover, the study distinguishes between simple and innovative instruments. Simple transparency instruments are instruments that are easy to install and that require little effort – like the by-line, information on the author, or the possibility to comment. Innovative instruments develop at a higher level of self-reflection like blogs, descriptions of the news production, or editorial blogs.
Transparency as a form of “window dressing“:
Transparency in journalism should be considered more complex than positive, since a closer inspection illustrates pitfalls. Firstly, the effectiveness of many transparency instruments have yet to be proven empirically (Craft / Heim, 2009), because the field of research in media science is relatively new and unexplored. Secondly, some of these instruments have a slightly illusionary effect and can be installed due to publicity and marketing reasons. (Fengler et al., 2011). In this case they tend to contribute to transparency by their very nature, although this is not intended. The tools are mainly implemented for business reasons in order to stabilize the media brand. Susanne Fengler, a German professor for international journalism, points out: “Good PR for the journal, but little transparency for the reader.” (ibid.). As a result this is merely an “illusion of inclusion” (ibid.). Consequently, many accountability instruments simply lead to an increased publicity effect and, according to the Dutch media expert Yael de Haan (2011), “seem to be more a form of window dressing than a true attempt to restore trust in their performance.” The idea of full media transparency and everything connected to it, such as audience participation, is still in its infancy in the Arab world (Lahlali, 2011). The news channel Al Jazeera was a pioneer in introducing call-in shows with participatory elements (Miles, 2005). Elsewhere, it is mentioned that the Internet could spread and compact the political discourse in the Arab sphere (Hafez, 2009). According to the social scientists Mahjoob Zweiri and Emma C. Murphy (2011), the Social Web opens a new world of dialogue and conversation in the Middle East.
Comparing the United Arab Emirates to Egypt is appealing as these countries are quite heterogeneous, although they both belong to the Arab World. These discrepancies relate not only to the media systems, but also to the political and cultural development of the two states (Hahn / Alawi, 2007; Hermann, 2011). Many characteristics run diametrically above the others. Both states possess scientific media relevance, particularly they both reference media outlets with an impact throughout the Arab World, like Abu Dhabi TV, Al Arabiya (UAE), Al Ahram and Al Akhbar (Egypt) (Rugh, 2004). As there is no systematic knowledge in communication science about instruments of journalistic transparency in the Arab sphere, exploratory knowledge and results were generated in this study by using a qualitative method. Twelve Arab journalists were interviewed with semi-structured qualitative guidelines, with interviews conducted on site, via telephone, or via Skype. In all cases, it was important to create an open conversation atmosphere.
One of the most obvious results is that in the UAE there tends to be more openness towards innovative transparency instruments than in Egypt. In order to strengthen their market position, the Emirates media use Twitter and Facebook to suggest credibility. A journalist working for the TV-station Al-Arabiya in Dubai says: “I think that Arab media has learn[ed] a lot of lessons from the Arab Spring.” Another journalist from Abu Dhabi points out the importance of the Internet and how journalists should utilize it. He says: “The Internet will increase pressures on conventional media organizations to be transparent and clear and not to hide information. Audiences have other ways to obtain information and are able to bypass traditional channels. If you don’t watch out, you would be left behind. (…) Online media are the future communication platform on which all traditional media will converge. If you don’t join the bandwagon, you would be the loser in this technological transition.” A journalist from the Egyptian newspaper Al-Akhbar adds: “(…) what you hid is going to be there. People want to have communication, so they start to communicate.” The flare-up of journalistic transparency can be seen in the political context of the impact of the Arab Spring. These two phenomena have as a consequence in common that each citizen is able to voice their thoughts. Transparency in terms of making editorial processes public seems only peripherally present, because both countries need time to develop the idea of social participation – and the idea of a self-reflected journalism. A journalist working for the Abu Dhabi based newspaper The National reflects: “There has been a major change (.) Not just for stories, but (.) for journalism itself. There is now a higher connection between the people and journalists (…) They can comment everything I have written.” There has been a major change in how media outlets deal with their recipients, she says. “Everything is now available to everyone. They can comment whatever they think.” In the end, these comments lead to more intensive conversations with journalists and authors. When comparing print and TV media in terms of journalistic transparency, it is striking that print engages more in the use of transparency instruments than TV, although a general statement is hard to find in this context, meaning each medium should be analyzed on its own regarding transparency.
The article is based on the author’s Master thesis.
See bibliography and references here.
A new contract between Instagram and its users will take effect Saturday (Jan. 19), and the far from smooth transition in shifting contracts has taken the photo sharing service to the courthouse. As lawyers, concerned users and service providers argue about the new contract, the case raises more interesting questions about the social responsibilities of news media. Instagram’s announcement of its new terms of service (TOS) on December 17th overshadowed the promised end of the world, as tens of thousands of outraged users took to social media to express their discontent. Many threatened to leave Instagram. Others, including the National Geographic, which used Instagram to post professional photos, discontinued use of the service immediately until Kevin Systrom, Chief Executive of Instagram, apologized for the confusing language and promised a more clearly-worded version.
The part that triggered discontent from users read, “to help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.“ In addition, Instagram included a clause that allowed the service to include commercial content without clarifying it is such. Some users reacted immediately. The National Geographic, which makes professional photos from the magazine available to its more than 700 thousand followers on Instagram, placed a text on their official Instagram feed, stating it would suspend the account due to concerns over the new contract. After this message appeared on the National Geographic account, word-of-mouth reached a number of users that turned out to be almost disastrous for Instagram. The service went into damage control mode. Kevin Systrom claimed Instagram had no intention of selling user data and that all the confusion came from the poor wording of the contract. He said Instagram had heard the message and will improve the contract. This stopped many from closing their accounts and National Geographic resumed its postings on the network. The contract was indeed improved partially, though some issues still remain. Finkelstein and Krinsk lawfirm sued Instagram after the change, claiming that users who disagree with the new terms can close their accounts, but thus forfeit their rights to previously published photos, Reuters reports.
A new study on Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia shows how interaction among users proclaiming political affiliation is more cross party than previously imagined. The recent U.S. presidential election evidenced the indispensability of the Internet when it comes to accessing political information. One of the most frequently used resources is Wikipedia, which has 482 million unique monthly users and is the sixth most-visited website in the world. It serves as an enormous and easy-to-use platform designed to fulfill the information appetites of the masses. In a connected world, the Internet’s ability to influence audiences and their political choices is key, but is the information provided by one of its most powerful tools biased? Is Wikipedia’s political content the result of real participatory dialogue among opposing political groups?