Journalists Doubt Reliability of Information on Social Networks

By March 19, 2014
Information journalists

Although journalists generally use social networks frequently in their work, many do not regard them as a trustworthy source of information.

Social networks have become essential tools for all kinds of communication and media professionals, who now tend to use them on a daily basis for their work. However evidence shows that Spanish journalists do not generally see the information sourced from these networks as totally reliable.  This emerges from a survey carried out among 400 journalists by researchers at University Carlos III in Madrid (UC3M) in order to analyse how communication professionals make use of these social platforms as supplementary journalistic tools. Given the extent to which social media have become a part of the news reporting process, it would indeed appear vital to question the reliability of such sources in terms of both the intuitive and collaborative aspects.

A secondary, comparative source

The UC3M survey examined the way Spanish journalists use social networks as part of their work with a view to assessing how far the social platforms are now integrated into their daily routines.  What emerges is that the journalists tend to use them more to complement their main sources rather than as a central information source, with 93% of those polled stating that they use social networks as an additional tool. More precisely, “the ones that are most used are Facebook and Twitter, mainly to publish information about the media outlet where they work, to learn users’ opinions, to detect new topics, to look for information and to contact sources,” explained Professor Eva Herrero Curiel of UC3M’s Department of Journalism and Audiovisual Communication.  In addition, some 36.34% of the journalists reported using social networks to compare information with that received from other sources.

Social networks: information or disinformation?
Paradoxically, 67% of the journalists surveyed consider social networks to be less reliable than traditional communication media, saying that they do not believe they offer professionalism, depth or credibility. “These contradictions illustrate a still vacillating or ambiguous attitude on the part of professionals towards their journalistic regard for these platforms, at least in discursive terms,” points out Professor Herrero. The Spanish journalists’ use of social networks also varies according to their age and place of work. Some 57.40% of those aged between 21 and 40 say they use them on a daily basis, while those over 40 years old only report using them ‘frequently’.

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