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Journalist Fellows' Papers

How do social media build the professional identity of journalists?

Reuters Institute Fellow's Paper

Social media platforms are becoming increasingly important in enabling journalists to reach audiences and find ideas for stories. At the same time, the number of different social media platforms has grown. In her research paper Ilona Turtola, news correspondent from Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, examines how social media build the professional identity of journalists.

Based on interviewing journalists from Finland and the UK (all of them active social media users), Turtola indicates that professional identity on social media is formed of four points: expertise on specific topics, media outlets’ social media guidelines, freedom and spontaneity. Freedom means that journalists (usually) know the social media guidelines but, after that, they basically do whatever they want and whenever they want on social media. Spontaneity means that journalists have started using social media on their own initiative and they do not engage in any routines on social media.

"Most interviewees tend to use only 1-2 platforms," says Ilona. "This can be regarded as a surprise, because one of the initial aims of this research was to find out how journalists can handle multiple platforms. The common reasons for using only a few platforms are a lack of time and uncertainty how some platforms could be used for journalism. However, journalists are eager to try out new platforms, if only they had time to do so and an idea about how to integrate them as a part of the daily work."

As with all Fellows’ research papers, any opinions expressed are those of the author and not of the Institute.