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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

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Influential social media sites: How do they interact with journalism outlets?

Some people may disagree but, in my opinion, social media is an ally to the future of journalism. Besides the problem of sharing mis- and disinformation, they can be used as channels to spread news and reach more audiences. That is the way some newsrooms organizations find to survive by reaching a younger audience. In addition, it is a tool to connect and engage with people. 

Credit: Pixabay

Speaking of reaching more audiences, it was interesting to observe the results of studies conducted by Pew Research Center. In 2013, it revealed that about 52% of Twitter users and 47% of Facebook users got news from social platforms. Two years later, in 2015, a new study found that 63% of both Twitter and Facebook users utilize social media as a source for news. 

Those numbers increased in the 2017 survey when 67% of Americans said they get at least some of their news on social media. In that year, 26% - up from 18% in 2016 and 15% in 2013 - of all U.S. adults used to get news from multiple social networks, such as Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp. However, in the 2021 most recent study, the percentage dropped due to misleading information about the election, the COVID-19 pandemic, and more. About 48% of people said they get news from social media “often” or “sometimes” - which still is a large portion of the population. 

These drop-in numbers stressed how social media companies also have an important and necessary role in regulating content. The lack of vigilance and responsibility for the toxic content, conspiracy theories, and misinformation published resulted in many people losing confidence in the platforms. As Eric Lutz said in his article on Vanity Fair about the changes Facebook is implementing to monitor hate speech, it “shows that the company is perfectly capable of addressing harmful or misleading content on its platform - which makes it all the more maddening when they don’t.” 

Journalism and Social Media

Another relevant point I recognized is that when it comes to the most popular topic the users consume, entertainment news is in the first place, followed by local news. 65% of Facebook members want to know about events in their communities. And here is where we find another powerful role social media can play in journalism: help to establish relationships and listen to the audience. 

I would like to quote Michel Skoler’s article on Nieman Reports (Why the News Media Became Irrelevant—And How Social Media Can Help). 

“We can’t create relevance through limited readership studies and polls, or simply by adding neighborhood sections to our Web sites. We need to listen, ask questions, and be genuinely open to what our readers, listeners, and watchers tell us is important every day. We need to create new journalism of partnership, rather than preaching.” He adds that “social media can guide us. If we pay attention and use these tools, we can better understand today’s culture and what creates value for people.” 

More than just looking for followers and distributing their content, journalism outlets can use social networks to get the readers involved to express their opinions and suggest topics, making it more engaging.


Skoler, Michel 2009, Why the News Media Became Irrelevant—And How Social Media Can Help, Nieman Reports, accessed 23 February 2022, <https://niemanreports.org/articles/why-the-news-media-became-irrelevant-and-how-social-media-can-help/>.

Lutz, Eric 2020, Facebook is finally overhauling how it handles hate speech, Vanity Fair, accessed 23 February 2022, <https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/12/facebook-changing-hate-speech-policy>.

Mitchell, Amy; Kiley, Jocelyn; Gottfried, Jeffrey; Guskin, Emily 2013, The Role of News on Facebook, Pew Research Center, accessed 23 February 2022, <https://www.pewresearch.org/journalism/2013/10/24/the-role-of-news-on-facebook/>.

*This article was submitted as a memo assignment for the course "Current Issues of Journalism" at the University of Illinois.

About Manu Ferreira

Hi, my name is Manu Ferreira. I am multimedia producer. I hold a bachelor's degree in Social Communication - Radio, TV, and Internet, and a Master's degree in Journalism. Here, I want to share my ideas and some of the work I've done in my career.


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