Behind the times? Social media and Australian journalism

It’s no breaking news; social media’s capabilities have been utilized beyond simply being media for social interaction. Numerous industries, particularly advertising and marketing, have advanced and excelled in today’s markets by entrenching social media into the heart of their business models. More recently, the capabilities of social media are becoming increasingly more realized in journalism. With Twitter being described as “proving to be the quintessential media tool”, social media is becoming an integral aspect of a journalism practice worldwide creating ‘a much more complex ecosystem for the creation and distribution of news’. British Broadcasting Commission (BBC) world correspondent, Lyse Doucet articulates this shift in practice eloquently stating, “if you’re not on Twitter or Facebook, you’re not getting the whole story”.
Many news networks around the world have integrated social media use into the fabric of their practice and newsroom policies. The BBC strongly highlights social media’s influence on practice with the formation of a ‘Social News Team’ in their newsroom. The team of six work to ‘deliver fast, accurate breaking news on twitter, encourage debate and discourse on Facebook and provide in depth analysis for Google plus to serve an audience of millions’. Assistant Editor of the Social News Team, Mark Frankel observed the number of click backs from their social media audience is returning to a variety of the BBC’s news journalism platforms ‘through the prism’ of their social media accounts. A survey conducted by Swedish PR and marketing company, Cision in conjunction with the Canterbury Christ Church University indicates British journalists are strong adopters of social media in their practice. Of the 589 journalists surveyed, ‘92% of British journalists use Twitter regularly and 89% use social media for sourcing information when sourcing news stories’.  Furthermore, 91% use social media to publish and promote news stories to their audiences .
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Australian journalists should look to their British cousins for advice to better use social media in their journalism practice


“A reluctance to engage with and in non-proprietary, third party spaces for news discussion and dissemination, harking back to the us versus them attitudes prevalent in the last decade’-Axel Bruns

 Thus, as QUT Lecturer and Media researcher Axel Bruns says in a paper on journalism and Twitter, social media  is ‘now well-established as important sources of news-related information for their users’.  So, how do Australian journalists fare in their social media usage in comparison to our British cousins? Seemingly, not very well according to a study being conducted by researchers Saba Babawi and Diana Bossio at the Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne. Queensland University of Technology lecturer Trina McLellan explained in our Online Journalism lecture Babawi and Bossio reseach study,  “The Role of Social Networking Sites in Australian Journalism Production”, surveyed over 300 mid-career Australian journalists about their interactions with and via social media in the newsroom. McLellan shared the pair’s preliminary findings which observed ‘local Australian journalists have integrated a basic use of social media into some of their everyday reporting practices’.

A survey conducted by  Newsmaker Australian Media backs up Babawi and Bossio’s preliminary findings. The survey of 412 Australian journalists in relation to their social media use in 2013 and found 66% felt the social media was decreasing a journalists influence. A statistic positing some Australian journalists are showing a ‘reluctance to engage with and in non-proprietary, third-party spaces for news discussion and dissemination, harking back to the us vs them’ attitudes prevalent in the past decade’ . An out-of-date mentality in Australian journalism toward social media may be hindering the industry to advance its practice with Bruns noting ‘such news organisations effectively are excluding themselves from an important part of the information market’.

Australian journalists and news organizations should look to their British counterparts to begin the shift towards a new age journalistic mindset. Journalism is no longer a top-down model of news production or dissemination, the ‘public and the press not simply competing or substituting for one another, but involved in an ecology of media that is also enabling the two estates to be mutually complementary and reinforcing’.