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STUDY: Has Social Media Changed Journalism for the Better or Worse?

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A recent study by finance/investor relations group ING attempts to answer a question crucial to the PR industry: how has social media changed the nature of journalism as a product and the behavior of those who practice it?

The answer: more crowdsourcing, less fact-checking and, inevitably, more corrections/retractions.

We know why that matters to PR. Details after the jump.

Here are the numbers you need to know:

  • 1/3 of journalists say social media posts aren’t trustworthy
  • Yet 50% of them say social is “their main source of information

On the corporate communications front:

  • Half of journalists say consumer sentiments are more reliable than corporate statements
  • Many research said sentiment on social media, where they can’t always check for accuracy (and sometimes choose not to)

The current motto, when it comes to accuracy: “publish first, correct if necessary.” Only 20% of participants said they fact check reports before publishing them.

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As bloggers who personally post an average of 7-10 times every day, we can’t emphasize how much we identify with these particular findings. Unfortunately, this means that certain stories (like, say, the KFC “girl asked to leave” hoax that went viral last week) can hang around long enough to do plenty of damage before they’re debunked. Just ask Gawker.

Here’s a key quote:

“PR professionals also noted that since the arrival of social media journalists are getting in contact less frequently to check facts.”

And we know this. While many of the European reporters who participated in this study lag behind their American peers in terms of interacting with PR, they unanimously expect to use more crowdsourced information and UGC in their future reporting.

Some interesting numbers from the PR side:

  • Only 25% of those surveyed say they can do their jobs without social
  • 56% say social has “reduced the importance of traditional media
  • Most PRs say they’re “active” on social from 8:30 AM to 8 PM every day

Here’s the SlideShare:

It’s true that this was a relatively small study: it involved 186 PR professionals, journos and corporate communicators, most of whom work in The Netherlands.

Still, it’s an accurate and, in some ways, discouraging reflection of general trends.

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