Social media, particularly Twitter, is a communication tool used daily by professional journalists, however, there is continued debate about what they are ethically allowed to post. On November 19, 2015, the Republican led United States House of Representatives passed a bill, suspending the Syrian/ Iraqi refugee program which allowed them entry into United States (Wemple, 2015). In response to this result, CNN network global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott tweeted “House passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees. Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish.” Labott received much criticism for this post, because journalism ethics require objectivity, and in this instance, the organization stated that she acted as a commentator. Later that day, CNN announced they were suspending Labott for two weeks. Labott then tweeted an apology, stating that her comment was “inappropriate and disrespectful” (Stelter and Byers 2015).
In a similar instance, during the fall 2016 political debates, a Newsweek investigative journalist, Kurt Eichenwald, posted an unverified tweet about Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump (Farhi 2016). On September 13, he tweeted “I believe Trump was institutionalized in a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown in 1990, which is why he won’t release medical records” (Farhi 2016). He deleted the post from Twitter, however, at that point the statement had already been retweeted and liked hundreds of times.
There are several other cases in which journalists have resigned, been suspended, fired, or relocated due to the subjective content of their tweets. In 2014, CNN correspondent, Diana Magnay, tweeted about an Israelis group, who were cheering about a missile attack on Gaza (Farhi 2014). According to Magnay’s tweet, this group threatened her, and she referred to them as “Scum.” She was not fired for this tweet, but rather relocated to Moscow. However, in 2010 a CNN foreign affairs editor, Octavia Nasr, was dismissed, after tweeting about the death of a Hezbollah leader. She called him “one of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot” (Farhi 2014). MSNBC also fired a reporter because of a social media posting, and a St. Louis television station fired one of their top anchors because of a controversial post about the IRS (Farhi 2014).
These cases, particularly that of Elise Labott, have raised several questions about what is appropriate for journalists to post on social media. Journalists are instructed to engage with their readers/viewers through social media and to thereby create community. The Reuters Handbook also notes that journalists are allowed to post about experiences in their own lives, such as attending a school play or posting about their favorite recipe. In this way, they appear personable to the audience. However, the handbook also states that journalists must remain objective when dealing with matters of public importance. According to the Chairman of the Society for Professional Journalists’ Ethics Committee, Andrew Seamen, “…speculation isn’t journalism, and I think it makes the public distrust solid and evidence-backed reporting” (Farhi 2016).
The term social media itself can refer to a wide variety of outlets, which aid individuals in communication with others through electronic means. Boyd and Ellison (2007) define social media as “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (p. 211). The utilization of different social networking sites (SNS) often involves sharing status updates, pictures, videos, and professional qualifications. Although the term social media can pertain to several different forms of SNS, Twitter has become increasingly popular throughout society. The social networking site (SNS) allows users to send/receive messages instantaneously. It was launched in 2006, and by 2007, over 60 thousand tweets were sent a day through the medium. There are now over 200 million active Twitter users (MacArthur 2016).
In the field of journalism, Twitter has been found to aid in the processes of news distribution and newsgathering, although this often depends on the context of a particular story. Moon and Hadley (2014) concluded that feature stories generally contain more information garnered from Twitter than breaking news stories. Additionally, broadcast media outlets have been found to utilize Twitter more frequently than those working in print media outlets, but there is controversy regarding the appropriate uses for such emerging technology. Journalistic research suggests that social media is increasingly becoming an integral part of the news industry; however, its verifiability is questioned to a certain extent. This research will use content analysis to examine the ways in which Twitter is utilized by on-air reporters/anchors at the Lancaster County NBC affiliate, WGAL, and the contents of their posts.
Over the past decade, social media has become an increasingly popular platform for individuals to share information about their work and personal lives. The first form of social networking through the Internet was in 1971 when the first email was sent (Web Designer 2016). Over the next couple of decades, several other Internet forums were introduced, such as the Bulletin Board System (BBS), Usenet, and Internet Relay Chat. The first social networking site (SNS) was Geocities, which was launched in 1994. This interactive site allowed users to create and customize their websites. They were then grouped into “cities” based on similar interests (Web Designer 2016). In 1997, AOL Instant Messenger was introduced, allowing users to write a biography about themselves and send instant messages. Through this site users were searchable, allowing friends to find one another on the Internet. Several other sites were launched including Hi-5 and Classmates, which still has 40 million registered users (Web Designer 2016).
The first “modern” social networking site, was Friendster, which was essentially used as a dating website. Within three months it had 3 million registered users. Another popular social networking site, My Space, launched in 2003, and quickly acquired over 90 million registered users. This site allowed users to personalize their pages through adding music, pictures, and videos. Another site established in 2003 was LinkedIn. This site was different from the other social media platforms, as it was primarily for professional purposes, allowing users to “connect” with potential employers and colleagues. LinkedIn currently has 30 million registered users (Web Designer 2016).
The following year, in February 2004, Harvard Undergraduate, Marc Zuckerberg, developed a site originally titled thefacebook, as a means for college students to interact with one another (“The Facebook Obsession” 2011). With the help and support of Napster founder, Sean Parker, Zuckerberg was able to introduce his site to those living outside of the Ivy League campus, and later received offers from both Microsoft Office and Friendster to buy the company for ten to fifteen million dollars (“The Facebook Obsession” 2011). Despite this substantial offer, he refused to sell and continued to expand his organization to reach a larger social network. This idea of providing individuals with a forum to maintain contact with others, and share personal information such as religion, gender, age, and relationship status, precipitated an alteration in communication styles throughout society (“The Facebook Obsession” 2011). In 2008, Facebook surpassed MySpace and Friendster as the leading social networking site in the world. It currently has 150 million users worldwide (Web Designer 2016).
Another popular social networking site is Twitter. It was established in 2006 by co-founder Jack Dorsey as a short messaging service (SMS) platform (MacArthur 2016). The first tweet was posted on March 26, 2006 by Dorsey stating “just setting up my twttr.” Initially users followed this trend of deleting vowels when tweeting. Eventually users began creating their own jargon and ways of posting on the site, such as incorporating “hashtags” and referencing other users with the @ symbol. Users also began typing RT (stands for “retweet”) before the message, indicating that they were reposting another tweet. This “retweet” function was added to Twitter in 2010 (MacArthur 2016).
Although Facebook was once the dominant social networking site, Twitter is becoming increasingly popular among the millennial generation. According to Lang (2015), teens and others in the millennial generation are beginning to leave Facebook at a rate of about one million per year. One of the reasons why they are leaving this social media platform is because their parents, who are in the Generation X and Baby Boomer generations, are beginning to join Facebook. In an interview for The Washington Post, a 16-year-old stated that teens are now embarrassed to be associated with Facebook (Lang 2015). According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, the majority of Twitter users are those between the ages of 18 to 29. It now has 50 million more registered users than Facebook (MacArthur 2016).
Social Media and Sex
In addition to differences between generations, there are also disparate ways in which men and women utilize social networking sites. According to Park et al. (2016), women are more likely to reference social relationships on Facebook, whereas men generally contribute information and post about their occupation. Women also expressed emotion through emoticons and exclamation marks, the “tone” of their post was overall much warmer and positive than men’s posts, which were often sarcastic and critical Park et al. 2016). Thompson and Lougheed (2012) found that women spend more time on social media than men. In their study women also felt more addicted to social media than men, and experienced anxiety when unable to access the sites.
Similarly, Bennett (2015) specifically examined Twitter and concluded that women’s tweets included more emotion than men’s tweets. This can be done through emoticons and acronyms such as “LOL” (laugh out loud). In addition, men primarily used hashtags as a means of tagging posts, which helps them reach a larger audience. However, women used hashtags to provide commentary and make their Twitter page more of a diary style blog. This resulted in their posts not being as widely read or retweeted as men’s tweets. For example, during Hurricane Irene in 2011, women’s hashtags included “#praying” and “#safe,” whereas men often tweeted hashtags such as “#breaking” “#media,” and “#Obama.” According to (Bennett 2015), the differences in Twitter content of men and women may help to explain why “…although roughly equal proportions of American men and women are on Twitter, women appear to trail men in terms of influence” (p.222).
Twitter in the Workplace
Twitter has been incorporated into the workplace by facilitating the formation of relationships and self-presentation in an online platform. Treem and Leonardi (2012:178) outlined a series of ways in which social media can contribute to communication in the organizational setting, suggesting the concepts of visibility and association. Firstly, social media helps to maintain an online reputation by the reposting of links leading to certain articles or information. It can also form a “social tie” between individuals, helping them to interact with coworkers within their workplace, while also sharing information about their lives, preferences, knowledge, and connections through online profiles (Treem and Leonardi 2012: 162). In addition to maintaining connections, another usage of this new media regards message dissemination, which greatly impacts those working within the field of journalism.
The introduction of social media has influenced the news industry by changing the way in which stories are gathered and distributed. Cozma and Chen (2013) stated that “Social networking sites are used to bypass the traditional media channels and offer world news to citizens that are famously apathetic, but also use mobile communication more than ever” (p. 43-44). According to Mullin (2015), journalists are the largest authenticated group on the site, making up 24.6 percent of the site’s verified users. They also tend to follow more users on the site and tweet more frequently than other verified users, which includes those in political, sports, entertainment, and music professions. On the ninth anniversary of Twitter, founder Jack Dorsey thanked journalists through a series of tweets, crediting them with the increasing popularity of the site, and making Twitter a major source of news content (Kaufman 2015).
Most journalists write approximately 5.6 tweets per day, however, this varies depending on the particular media outlet (Lasorsa et al. (2012). A study conducted by Cozma & Chen (2013), examined how foreign correspondents used Twitter as a medium for news distribution, and found that 13 percent of their tweets pertained to breaking news, 14 percent promoted their workplace, and 6 percent attempted to engage users through online interaction. Moon and Hadley (2014) similarly examined the use of Twitter in the journalism profession, by analyzing the tweets of seven major media outlets in the United States. This included news sources such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and NBC News. In this case, CNN was found to cite Twitter more often than its print and broadcast competitors with 389 segments incorporating this form of social media, in comparison to the 55 segments shown on NBC (Moon and Hadley 2014: 297).
The content of such stories gathered from Twitter often differs from those obtained by conventional means. Lasorsa et al. (2012) stated, “Journalists diverged from their traditional roles as nonpartisan information providers by offering a considerable number of opinions in their tweets” (p. 28). They also found that Twitter was employed for feature stories more often than hard news, with 16 percent of the tweets consisting solely of opinion topics, and 27 percent of these messages were perceived as being slightly biased. An analysis of the data also suggested that reporters working for major media outlets with a large audience were less likely to stray from professionalism by sharing stories and personal information through this medium (Lasorsa et al. 2012). Contrastingly, those employed at small local stations were generally more active on Twitter, due to their need to sustain followers. According to Moon and Hadley (2014), many of the stories journalists derive from Twitter feeds are related to politics, and the majority of users they rely on for accurate information can be considered reputable sources, such as government officials.
Although many journalists may continue to rely on credible sources for information, social media is indeed changing the norms within this field, particularly in regard to broadcast journalism. Many journalists working within the broadcast news industry use Twitter more often than those working in print, and are thereby able to reach a broader audience (Cozma and Chen 2013). While studying several news outlets, Moon and Hadley (2014) found that 301 television news segments used Twitter as a primary source of information, whereas only 34 print articles collected their information in this way. In television news, this notable involvement in social media may also contribute to the growing popularity of broadcast journalists in society (Moon & Hadley, 2014, p. 43).
The news media also has the potential to influence an audience through their Twitter posts. Max McCombs and Donald Shaw’s Agenda Setting Theory states that the media influences public conversation and priorities (McCombs and Shaw 1972). For example, media portrayals can result in differing views of social movements and political trust (Camaj 2014). The theoretical linkages of Agenda Setting Theory can also involve stereotyping, framing, and image building. The news media also serves as a “gatekeeper” for information provided to the public (McCombs and Funk 2011). Moreover, Framing Theory pertains to the media’s focus on particular issues, as well as the ways in which those issues are portrayed (Goffman 1974). According to Mccurdy (2012) “…the importance of studying media frames is premised on the view that media both reflect and contribute to the creation of public discourse and understanding” (p. 246). Journalists have the capacity to produce meanings and values through their news packages and social media posts (Ryan 2001; Boykoff and Laschever 2011). For example, a journalist may frame a particular issue as being either positive or negative, and choose whether or not to integrate his/her opinion into the post, incorporate links, or engage with the audience.
Rogstad (2016) stated that Twitter often includes more criticism than mainstream media content, however, the posts generally reflect the stories covered by the mainstream media. They also found that 36.9 percent of tweets referenced mainstream media. In addition, the Tweets that framed the news in a sarcastic or humorous way gained much discussion on Twitter, as users responded and retweeted the posts. Journalists’ Twitter posts also generated criticism and comments on their stories. In this way, the interactive media platform allows users to “…contribute with new perspectives or a critical evaluation of mainstream media” (Rogstad 2016:153).
In regard to the usage of Twitter within the field of journalism, many news reporters promoted their workplace by incorporating links to their station’s website, whereas others were more interactive with their audience, engaging in discussions with users by prompting questions, and seeking information on particular stories. This can also relate to the concept of gatekeeping, as journalists have the ability to open up the forum for discussion, by retweeting the statuses of other users (Lasorsa et al. 2012). These innovative techniques for distributing the news “…produce unique footprints of the movements, conflicts, or events they pertain to…” (Papacharissi 2015:32), while also helping the viewers to become more involved with the development and process of newsgathering. However, there is also an expectation of immediacy with this medium, and at certain times a journalist may not have the ability to thoroughly comprehend the information before being required to report on a story. In addition, with the growth of citizen journalism, it is often difficult for those in the news industry to disclose breaking news before others release the information (Papacharissi 2015: 36).
Despite such disadvantages regarding this dissimilar form of communication, social media platforms, such as Twitter, continue to impact the field of broadcast journalism by changing the ways in which individuals communicate and disseminate news. For example, news anchors/reports at the local medium market Pennsylvania station, WGAL, are encouraged by their supervisors to post daily on Twitter and Facebook. This Lancaster County NBC Affiliate has the No.1 market share in the country, and broadcasts in one of the United States’ top 50 markets (Stark 2013). According to 2013 Nielson ratings, 32 percent of the television viewing audience in the Lancaster-Harrisburg-York-Lebanon market watche WGAL (Stark 2013). Nationally, NBC is fourth in the rankings.
Although previous literature has compared social media usage among broadcast and print news journalists, they did not consider differences between on-air reporters/anchors within the same organization. Research has also examined differences in the tone of male/female tweets, focusing mainly on hashtags. Bennett (2015) concluded that men in broadcast news are more likely to be retweeted because of their “traditional” use of hashtags, however, this study failed to examine the entire content or focus of the tweet itself. The studies which did analyze content of social media posts, analyzed Facebook as opposed to Twitter, even though Twitter is continuing to increase in popularity. There is also limited research analyzing differences between the tweets of male and female reporters/anchors in the broadcast news field. This research will add to the literature by focusing specifically on Twitter, examining differences between male and female reporter/anchor tweets by analyzing the news story content, opinions, and number of tweets of those employed at the medium size television market station, WGAL.
Hypothesis One: Most tweets will promote the news organization through job talking.
Rationale: Cozma and Chen (2013) concluded that the primary content of foreign news
correspondents’ tweets served to promote their workplace.
Hypothesis Two: Reporters/anchors will tweet more frequently about feature news than hard news.
Rationale: According to Lasorsa et al. (2012), journalists utilized Twitter as a
means of disseminating feature news content, and were less likely to tweet
about hard news stories.
Hypothesis Three: Female reporters/anchors will post more on Twitter than male reporters/anchors.
Rationale: Thompson and Lougheed (2012) concluded that females utilize
social media more often than men.
Hypothesis Four: Female reporters/anchors will post more personalized tweets than male reporters/anchors.
Rationale: According to Bennett (2015) women females show more emotion in their tweets than males. Park et al. (2016) also found that females often reference social relationships on their Facebook accounts.
Data and Methods
The data were obtained using a content analysis of Twitter usage and content of broadcast television news reporters/anchors at WGAL. Twitter posts were analyzed over the course of two weeks, from November 14, 2016 to November 25, 2016. This was the week following the 2016 presidential election, which may impact results. In addition, November is also a sweeps rating period, and they receive results through the Nielsen Ratings system. The company analyzes ratings during the months of February, May, July, and November.
WGAL is a local medium market station located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was first broadcast on channel 4 on March 18, 1949. In 1952, under a new grant from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), they moved from channel 4 to channel 8. Since then, they have continued to broadcast on channel 8 (Eyes of a Generation n.d.). WGAL was chosen because it is the leading medium market station in the Susquehanna Valley (Nielson Media Research 2008). They currently air nine newscasts each weekday at 4:30am, 5:00am, 6:00am, 12:00pm, 4:00pm, 5:00pm, 5:30pm, 6:00pm, and 11:00pm (WGAL News 8 2008).
All of the anchors/reporters at WGAL, with one exception, have a Twitter account. Each employee has “WGAL” at the end of their Twitter handle (username). There were only five male news reporters/anchors at the station, excluding sports reporters and meteorologists. In order to compare differences among tweeting patterns of men and women, the sample was put into gender groups, and then stratified by the individual’s primary position, which was either a news anchor or reporter. The female anchors/reporters were then matched to another male anchor or reporter with a similar number of followers. However, one female anchor who had significantly more followers than another male anchor in the study was selected because she had a verified twitter account. Only two reporters and one anchor at the station had verified accounts. The remaining seven female reporters/anchors were removed from the sample.
A coding sheet was used for each of the 10 reporter/anchor’s tweets (see Appendix A). The tweets were classified into types of stories as well as the format of the tweet. The format includes whether it was an original tweet, retweet, discussing, or linking. A retweet is when the user re-posts something that someone else had already tweeted, discussing is a “reply” or back-and-forth conversation with another user, and a linking involves including a hyperlink in the tweet. In addition, each tweet will be analyzed for major opining and minor opining. Major opining pertains to tweets that are primarily opinion, while minor opining primarily includes factual information, but also has a portion of it that is considered to be an opinion. The tweets will also be coded for the type of story, such as whether it is crime, politics/government, entertainment/celebrities, traffic, sports, weather, human-interest, or natural disasters. Feature news stories will encompass the categories of entertainment/celebrities, sports, and human-interest. The tweets will also be coded for job talking and personalizing. Examples of job talking include, but are not limited to, tweets in which journalists are self promoting either themselves, a story they wrote, or their organization. Examples of personalizing include, but are not limited to, a story about the reporter/anchor’s child in a baseball game, time spent with friends outside of work, or personal well being.
The content analysis of tweets by broadcast news reporters at the WGAL primarily supported the hypotheses for this study, however, there were some results which contradicted previous literature. Figure 1 shows the content of reporter/anchor original tweets posted during the two-week timespan. The majority of tweets (27.9 percent) were categorized as “job talking” indicating that those within the broadcast news field primarily used Twitter as a means of promoting their organization. This supports the first hypothesis as well as previous literature by Cozma and Chen (2013), who concluded that journalists primarily utilize Twitter as a means of promoting their workplace. For example, in the current study several reporters/anchors included @WGAL in their tweet, which could have directed their followers to the WGAL page. In addition, most of the tweets coded as “job talking” included a reference to the newscast in which the story referenced in the tweet would be featured. For example, one reporter tweeted about changes being made on the top two floors of the Lancaster County Courthouse, and then added “…see how they’re going to renovate them @6 on WGAL.” Other reporters similarly teased their news story, writing tweets such as “…what has to happen before then? Watch WGAL at 5:30,” “…who’s really to blame @6pm on WGAL” and “…could Rudy Giuliani be the next secretary of state? The latest on News 8 today.” Figure 2 shows that the majority (24 percent) of retweets were categorized as job talking. For example, reporters/anchors would retweet other reporter/anchor’s tweets promoting the newscast. The anchors would also state that the reporter was “live with the details.”
The second most common type of original tweet was personalizing. Twenty total tweets were categorized as personalizing. For example, one reporter tweeted about someone who he considered to be his “personal hero.” Another reporter tweeted a picture of the courtside of a basketball game, stating that she was celebrating her five thousandth follower on Twitter. This same reporter also tweeted about attending a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Lancaster, as well as a video outside of her house, joking about waking up with the crows. Other reporters similarly posted personalized pictures, #motivationalmonday quotes, and a picture of the whole news team participating in a holiday parade together. Other personalizing tweets were posted to say “Happy Thanksgiving” to followers. As shown in Figure 3, the majority (64.2 percent) of discussions were categorized as personalizing. For example, on Black Friday an anchor began a Twitter discussion with another anchor about shopping. Another anchor started a discussion with a coworker about a Christmas themed suit with snowmen. This same morning anchor replied to a viewer about the rule for doing the dishes during the holidays, stating “If you wait long enough maybe someone will do them for you.”
Although a large amount of the tweets were categorized as personalizing, most of the news stories featured were not human-interest related, but rather considered “hard news.” This does not support the second hypothesis or previous literature by Lasorsa et al. (2012) who stated that reporter/anchors tweet more frequently about feature stories than hard news stories, such as crime, traffic/accidents, and fires/natural disasters. Fifteen percent of the tweets related to crime stories, such as a couple stealing from a grocery store, and eight percent were categorized as a traffic/accident story, including a 4-year-old girl who was killed in a hit and run. While 19.7 percent of all the original tweets and the majority (59 percent) of the linking tweets were categorized as consumer, all but one of those tweets were posted by the same anchor.
Figure 4 shows the content of the minor opining stories. In total, there were 13 stories categorized as minor opining, and zero stories considered to be major opining. Most of the minor opining stories were personalizing and crime stories. For example, a reporter tweeted a picture of the lines at the airport and stated “maybe next year you SHOULD fly on the day before Thanksgiving…” He gave his opinion, as well as personal information about his trip. Another reporter tweeted “Incredible Story” about a PA State Trooper dragged more than one fourth mile on the highway. This reporter gave her opinion on the story, while also providing information about the crime. An anchor also mentioned the #ironicleness of a story in which someone stole a credit card to buy a security camera. In addition, Figure 5 shows that 13 of the tweets that included links were related to a consumer story. For example, an anchor included links on several of his posts to studies/articles regarding sales frauds and tips for consumers. However, these linking consumer stories were all posted by the same anchor.
Furthermore, there were differences between the frequency of times that males/females tweeted within this two-week time period and the frequency of tweets. The male news reporters/anchors in this study tweeted more frequently than the female reporters/anchors, which did not support the third hypothesis or previous literature by Thompson and Lougheed (2012), who found that females utilize social media more often than males. The male reporters/anchors in total tweeted 48 times and each individual had an average number of 9.6 tweets in two weeks. The female reporters/anchors together tweeted 38 times. The mean number of tweets for each female reporter/anchor was 7.6 in two weeks. The frequency of pictures included with the tweets was the same for both males and females, as they both tweeted 24 pictures total. However, the percentage of pictures included with the tweet was higher for men than for women, with 63.1 percent of male original tweets including a picture, and 50 percent of female tweets featuring a picture. Females were more likely to retweet than males. In total, the female reporters/anchors retweeted nine times within two weeks, while the males had a total of five retweets. Females also participated in more discussions more often than males. Female reporter/anchors participated in 10 discussions, and men only participated in three.
There were also differences between the type of content that males/females posted on Twitter. Figure 6 shows the content of female reporter/anchor original tweets. The majority (23 percent) of female reporter/anchor tweets were personalizing. For example, one female reporter tweeted a #throwback Thursday picture of her and her sister on Thanksgiving. This supports the fourth hypothesis and previous literature by Bennett (2015) and Park et al. (2016) who stated that females are more likely than men to show emotion and reference social relationships in their tweets. In comparison, Figure 7 shows that most (26 percent) of male reporter/anchor tweets were categorized as job talking. For example, males often included the @WGAL sign in their tweets, and promoted the upcoming newscast more frequently than the female reporter/anchors. Females reporters also tweeted more frequently about crime than males did; 19 percent of female reporter/anchor tweets were crime related, whereas seven percent of male reporter/anchor tweets were categorized as crime. Interestingly, males posted more frequently about human interest stories than females did, and females reported more frequently about politics/government than males did.
Summary and Conclusions
Social media sites, particularly Twitter, have changed the ways in which news reporters/anchors disseminate news content, however, there is controversy as to their appropriate usage by news media professionals. Agenda-Setting Theory states that the news media has the potential to influence perceptions of societal issues, therefore the content of these tweets can also impact followers. According to Farhi (2016) journalistic ethics require being objective, while also appearing personable to an audience. In the current study, only 6.6 percent of all tweets were categorized as minor opining. Lasorsa et al (2012) found that news reporters/anchors interact with an audience through discussions on Twitter, and use the site as a means of promoting their news organization. Reporters also post more feature and personalized stories on the social networking site than hard news content. Females were also found to post more frequently on Twitter than males and include more personal information (Bennett 2015; Park et al. 2016; Thompson and Lougheed 2012).
This study used content analysis to examine Twitter usage among reporter/anchors at the NBC affiliate in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, WGAL. Two hypotheses for this research were supported and two were not supported. The first hypothesis for this research that news reporters/anchors would primarily tweet in order to promote their job was supported. The reporter/anchors often included @WGAL in their posts, and also promoted the upcoming newscast by stating “watch on news 8 @ 5” or “more on @WGAL 6.” In comparison, the second hypothesis for this research, that news reporters would post more frequently about feature news than hard news was not supported. The majority of the news stories covered related to crime.
Interestingly, the third hypothesis for this research, that females would tweet more frequently than males, was not supported. However, females did post more personalizing tweets than males. Several of the female reporter/anchor posts related to family memories, inspirational quotes, and interaction with viewers. Moreover, the reporter/anchors included in this study also tweeted substantially less than those examined in the study by Lasorsa et al (2012). They found that reporters tweeted about 39.2 times per week, and in this study both male and female reporter/anchors tweeted on average 4.3 times per week. This may be due to differences in market sizes, as the current study only examined one medium market size station.
There were limitations to this study, including the small sample size. There were only five male news reporter/anchors at this station, therefore, in order to compare males and females, only five females could be selected as well. This limited the sample size to 10 twitter pages for this research. In addition, this research did not compare across market sizes. Future research should use content analysis to examine differences in twitter usage among news media professionals in large, medium, and small market sizes using the Nielsen Media Ratings categories of market sizes.
Despite the cited limitations, there were also strengths to this study. This research added to the literature by specifically analyzing Twitter, given its increasing popularity throughout society. The two weeks that were coded also examined differences in Twitter usage among broadcast news professionals within the same news organization. This study may be useful for communication and sociology of media researchers, as several of the results did not support previous literature. In addition, the results of this study may be useful for medium sized television news organizations, as it provides information regarding employees’ twitter posts, and will allow them to target their reporter/anchor’s social media focus, in order to reach a larger audience.
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