Shareability, Credibility & Objectivity: The State of Journalism Today
By Nancy Ruscheinski
Journalism today is clearly in a time of flux. Journalists are reconsidering their role, their obligations and their view of the future of journalism.
To better understand the ever-changing dynamics of journalism, Zeno Group went straight to the source. Muck Rack and Zeno partnered to survey more than 500 journalists globally. We asked them about their social media preferences, where THEY go for news, what it’s really like to report in an era of “policy by tweet” and how optimistic they are about the future of their profession.
Perhaps the most remarkable finding is that, although nearly two thirds of journalists still believe that objectivity is a journalist’s primary obligation, nearly half of those surveyed believe that it is not possible to be 100% objective in today’s political and social environment.
Underscoring this stunning acknowledgement is the fact they are uncertain and increasingly pessimistic about the direction their profession is headed in (45% are ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ pessimistic, up from 27% a year ago). And, reinforcing today’s polarizing climate, journalists themselves are split on whether the current U.S. presidential administration represents a bad moment for journalism (71% believe it is ‘eroding the credibility of the media’) or a good one (26% believe it represents a positive development for the news.)
Other key takeaways from this survey included:
- The survey results remind us that when it comes to the relationship between journalists and social media, it’s complicated. More than 60% of journalists in the U.S. and close to 70% of journalists outside the U.S. track how many times their stories are shared in social media. Thus, it’s not surprising that more than 40% of journalists acknowledge that they consider the potential ‘shareability’ of a story when deciding what to write about. (Professional storytellers, take note!) More journalists identified Twitter as their primary news source, with Instagram use by journalists on the rise and Facebook use declining. Still, 70% of journalists believe that the way both Facebook and Twitter rank their news sources is not helpful.
- As with most other professions in 2018, data and analytics are playing an increasingly important role. Nearly three quarters of journalists believe that data and analytics have impacted their job and profession, including the use of analytics to track how well stories perform in social media. Yet only about a third of journalists believe that data and analytics help them to do their jobs better.
- As for the relationship between the PR industry and journalists, while 46% of journalists view it as either antagonistic or a necessary evil, more than half view it as a mutually beneficial relationship. But, there is clear demand for new and improved PR tools, and a real need to rethink the press release. More than half of U.S. journalists stated that they do not rely on press releases at all, but they would be more likely to consider one if it contained an infographic.
The tools, priorities and expectations in journalism are changing more rapidly today than ever before. At the same time, the relationships between journalists, social media and analytics – and even PR people – are evolving. No doubt, those of us in the business of communications need to keep evolving, too.