Tweet or Be Sacked': Twitter and the New Elements of Journalistic Practice

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    • 00:00

      STEPHEN BARNARD: Hello.My name is Stephen Barnard, and I'm an assistant professorof sociology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.In this video editorial, I will talk about my article "Tweetor Be Sacked-- Twitter and the new elementsof journalistic practice" which waspublished in 2015 in Journalism-- TheoryPractice and Criticism.First, I want to provide some background on the articlebefore moving on to discuss its significance

    • 00:21

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: and to raise some issues to consider going forward.The article is about how journalists use Twitterand what that means for the practiceof professional journalism.As a sociologist interested in media and communicationtechnologies, I set up to study changes in American journalismby observing journalists acting and interactingin a prominent digital space and to conducta more systematic analysis of the textthat they produce through that process.

    • 00:41

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: It was February of 2009 when this curiosity led meto Twitter.And I quickly realized that therewere some pretty remarkable things happening there.At the same time, I was also immersing myself in literatureon journalism and new media, technology and social change,and especially in the application of field theoryto journalism studies.I soon began to apply these lenses.And within a few years, I'd completed the research

    • 01:03

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: featured in this article.All these factors were integral in shapingthe direction of my research.Having a deep appreciation for journalism;being interested in issues of technology and social change;working with field theory; and spending so much time followingjournalists on Twitter certainly influencedthe questions I asked and the methods Iemployed, as well as the way I interpretedthe data I had collected.

    • 01:24

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: So by the time I was coding the data,I already had formed some flexible assumptionsabout Twitter's growing importance for the fieldof journalism and how journalistsin their organizations were using it.This orientation is apparent to my primary research questionabout how journalistic meta-discourse on Twitterdemonstrates new logics in relationsof practice in the network era.To accomplish these goals, I adapted David Altheide's method

    • 01:47

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: of ethnographic content analysis to bestaccount for the extent of online participant observations Iconducted and to bring those insights into my analysisof textual data.I referred to this mixed methods approachas digital ethnographic content analysis, or DECA.My participant observations on Twittermade me aware of three hashtags that regularly containedcontent relevant to my research questions--

    • 02:09

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: #journalism, #journchat, and #wjchat, which isshort for web journalist chat.The first was a more generic hashtag,while the latter two were weekly chats whose participants mostlyconsist of journalists and other media professionals.I used a program formally known as the Archivistto collect tweets which I then uploaded to DiscoverTextfor coding and analysis.

    • 02:29

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: In accordance with Altheide's method,my coding scheme followed the double loopof analysis, where participant observation and initial codingallowed for greater meaning and patternsto emerge from the data.In other words, my prior examinationof field notes and archived extra textual datahelped reveal important insights aboutcommon journalistic themes and frames representedin the Twitter data.After taking a sub-sample of just over 1,000 tweets

    • 02:49

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: that included the keyword Twitter, I codedeach tweet according to the elements of practice modelI had developed.Then, I set out to interpret and explain my resultswhich I think are best viewed as belongingto one of two categories.The first are the distinctly journalistic practicesseen on Twitter, of which I identified eight: informationcollection, news dissemination, sourcing, public note-taking,

    • 03:11

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: public engagement, journalistic meta-discourse,other professional interactions, and personal interactions.While I think these practices are worth noting,I am more interested in the elements of practice,both because these findings are more unique to literatureand also because they reveal broader trends in Twitter'sjournalistic significance.These elements of practice have three primary components.

    • 03:33

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: The first is capital.While there are many forms of capital,I'd like to focus primarily on social and symbolic capital.The concept of social capital refersto an individual's social ties and networkswhich is an obvious factor on social media sites.Still, it was remarkable how many journalists reportedusing Twitter as something like a modern-day Rolodex, whichallowed them access to a constantly updating feed

    • 03:54

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: to potential sources.Additionally, I was most interested in symbolic capital,a concept that helps explain the status weattain by gaining recognition in a specific field.My data revealed many cases where journalists used Twitteras a platform to build and maintaintheir professional reputation by sharing their workas well as maximizing their visibility and engagementamong networked publics.

    • 04:15

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: These findings are remarkable because they indicatea slight increase in journalist autonomyfrom traditional power relations in the field.Second, I found some evidence of hybridity and changein the traditional journalistic habitus.The habitus is a theoretical conceptthat seeks to explain the complex arrayof structural and gentic forces that shape human action.Mainly, this includes individuals' positions

    • 04:37

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: and dispositions amidst broader spheres of influence.Given the recent growth of network communicationtechnologies, it is clear that modern journalistswork in a new media environment wherethe tools for gathering and sharing informationare more broadly distributed than ever before.What this means is that journalists, like many others,are now increasingly able to implement these new toolsin their daily routines.

    • 04:57

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: Much of my data consists of journalists [INAUDIBLE].And I explain these changes as the rise of a networkhabitus where journalists hold positions and dispositions thatare increasingly digital and interactive in nature.This kind of change doesn't just happen on its own.It occurs over long periods of time and amidst many factors.Thus, another important factor that I

    • 05:17

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: argue both reflects and reinforcesthe rise of the network habitus is a shift in the field's normsand values, or what Bourdieu refers to as doxa.If doxa are the field's taken-for-granted values thatgo largely undiscussed and undisputed,then heterodoxy signifies the non-traditional normsand values that are up for debate.Those values that are traditionallyaccepted but still discussed are said to be orthodox.

    • 05:39

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: These concepts help me explain pointsof agreement and disagreement amongst Twitter journalistsand to locate those perspectives within the broader contextof journalism as a profession.Most notably, my findings suggestthat there are some considerable changes occurringin the doxa of the field.For example, while the traditionsof truth and verifications are still strongly defendedby many professional news organizations,the growth of Twitter and network journalism

    • 06:01

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: has given rise to a new style of open real-time reporting thathybridizes traditional values with thosethat are newer and more attuned to the digital age.This is just one of many exampleswhere tradition and change collideto create a complex reality that is constantly unfolding.Overall, these findings suggest a needfor a deeper consideration of network technologies

    • 06:21

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: and their influence in micro and mezzo level dynamics.I was somewhat surprised by how openly many journalists spokeabout Twitter and its journalistic value,which I interpreted as part of a shifttoward a network habitus that is increasingly acceptingof heterodox news values.However, I was not too surprised to find changes in doxa,because new technologies like Twitterare widely known for their ability

    • 06:41

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: to cultivate innovative practices which oftenleads to shifts in values.These kinds of changes occur in many fields.But I think the journalistic subfield on Twitteris uniquely interesting because how influential itis proving to be.I like to think this article will have an impact on readersin part because of the healthy balanceI tried to strike between empirical richnessand theoretical depth.

    • 07:02

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: Whether or not this is fully apparent in the text itself,readers should pick up on the depth and concisenessof the argument both as it applies to the cases of studyas well as to the surrounding body of literature.For example, having demonstrated how journalistsare using Twitter while also analyzingthat usage through an adaptation of Bourdieu's field theoryshould provide a strong foundationfor further theoretical and empirical research.

    • 07:23

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: I also think my focus on micro and mezzo level field dynamicswill provide a useful counterbalance to a largerbody of work grounded in field theory, which typically placesgreater emphasis on the structural relationsbetween journalism and other prominent fields.Going forward, I plan to dig deeper into the waysTwitter and other new media tools are being implementedin the journalistic field.To start, I'll be looking for more empirical support

    • 07:45

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: for the shifts in practice I've discussedand to develop more robust theoretical and methodologicaltools to help me along the way.This will involve more research about hownetwork technologies like Twitterare implicated in journalistic practice.I also hope to connect these dynamicsto larger trends in the structural relationsof the journalistic field.I think these trends will be most visiblein a few specific case studies.

    • 08:05

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: So that's where I'll be focusing my attention.For those of you wanting to dig deeperinto this article and the issues it raises,I would suggest considering the following three things.First, the most obvious are the findings.While the typology of Twitter journalism practicesis fairly straightforward, I thinkwe could learn a lot by comparing and contrastingthe practices I identified with other cases of study.

    • 08:25

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: Similarly, while the shifts in journalistic capital, habitus,and doxa will continue to unfold,it is difficult to predict what they look likeor what significance they will hold in the future.To what extent will Twitter remainan important journalistic space?What are the primary factors contributingto change in the journalistic field?And how can we best study them?Also, given that my sample was relatively small and not

    • 08:47

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: necessarily representative, we should alsoconsider what the results mean whenthey are interpreted within the broader dynamics of the field.Second, I think my article makes a unique methodologicalcontribution by combining digital lithography and contentanalysis in the study of online meta-discourse.While there are many ways to approach this kind of data,I think my application of DECA was successful in helping

    • 09:09

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: me achieve my research goals.Nevertheless, I would encourage othersto consider how the strengths and weaknessesof various methodologies fit the data and questions they areexamining and to choose the combination that helps youstrike the most ideal balance.Last but not least, I also think I'veoffered some important insights regardingfield theory and its usefulness for the study of journalism

    • 09:30

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: as well as for other fields.Most importantly, I think my emphasison what I call the elements of practiceprovides a useful foregrounding of micro and mezzo levelmatters of journalistic practice while also keepingthe frame of analysis grounded in the basic structureof Bourdieu's field theory.I think there is great potential in this approach.And it's one I will continue to work on.I hope some of you will, too.

    • 09:50

      STEPHEN BARNARD [continued]: Thanks for watching.

Tweet or Be Sacked': Twitter and the New Elements of Journalistic Practice

View Segments Segment :


Professor Stephen Barnard discusses his research into new media technologies such as Twitter and how the adoption of these technologies is affecting journalistic values and practices.

Tweet or Be Sacked': Twitter and the New Elements of Journalistic Practice

Professor Stephen Barnard discusses his research into new media technologies such as Twitter and how the adoption of these technologies is affecting journalistic values and practices.

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