Who Retweets Whom: How Digital And Legacy Journalists Interact on Twitter

Paper by Michael L. Barthel, Ruth Moon, and William Mari published by the Tow Center: “When bloggers and citizen journalists became fixtures of the U.S. media environment, traditional print journalists responded with a critique, as this latest Tow Center brief says. According to mainstream reporters, the interlopers were “unprofessional, unethical, and overly dependent on the very mainstream media they criticized. In a 2013 poll of journalists, 51 percent agreed that citizen journalism is not real journalism”.

However, the digital media environment, a space for easy interaction has provided opportunities for journalists of all stripes to vault the barriers between legacy and digital sectors; if not collaborating, then perhaps communicating at least.

This brief by three PhD candidates at The University of Washington, Michael L. Barthel, Ruth Moon and William Mari, takes a snapshot of how fifteen political journalists from BuzzFeed, Politico and The New York Times, interact (representing digital, hybrid and legacy outlets respectively). The researchers place those interactions in the context of reporters’ longstanding traditions of gossip, goading, collaboration and competition.

They found tribalism, pronounced most strongly in the legacy outlet, but present across each grouping. They found hierarchy and status-boosting. But those phenomena were not absolute; there were also instances of co-operation, sharing and mutual benefit. None-the-less, by these indicators at least; there was a clear pecking order: Digital and hybrid organizations’ journalists paid “more attention to traditional than digital publications”.

You can download your copy here (pdf).”