Radboud Summer School course “Social Media Theory and Data in Journalism and Political Communication”

I am pleased to announce that I will teach a course on social media theory and data in journalism and political communication. It will take place in the first week of August 2016 in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Click to read the course description.

Social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Plurk, Renren) are important new digital platforms for online social networking and microblogging to discuss all kinds of issues (serious and trivial).
A subdivision of social media research concerns how regular people (citizens), political actors (politicians, organisations) and media professionals (journalists) use social media to share opinions about issues, create online communities and use social media strategically to inform or to win over people, e.g., to vote for them. In this course you will learn how to look at this social media data to understand how journalists, politicians, and citizens use social media. The course has three main parts: (a) theorizing social media, (b) theorizing theories about online journalism and political communication, and (c) methods of data collection and analysis of social media.
Social media theories will look at the specifics of social media design and how this affects online communication and networks. This theme is applicable to all kinds of social media and connected digital media. Subsequently we will look at creating social media theories for journalism and political communication using traditional and new approaches to create social media theories such as agenda setting research and networked journalism. Furthermore, we will discuss and use methods of collection and analysing social media data. The empirical and hands-on part will focus on understanding the structure of social media data (e.g., networks based on social connections but also sharing activities), the dynamics of social media data (e.g., change across time of social media activity) and the actual content of social media (i.e., expressed opinions).
In the morning programme the main focus will be theory, although methods will be a part of those sessions. In the afternoon we will have hands-on meetings on how to collect social media data, how to develop measurements instruments and analysing social media in terms of structure and content.

General information about summer courses from the Radboud University in 2016 can be found here.

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Twitter use in political campaigns

The Dutch people are busy with making up their minds about what party to vote for on September 12, 2012. And again, the role of social media in campaigning is something to watch.  One of the most popular platforms is Twitter. Below is a barchart of the level of Twitter adoption by candidatesin the 2010 elections. Showing that candidates from well established parties seem to adopt Twitter more likely that smaller, newer fringe parties. GroenLinks (GL) adopted Twitter the most, relatively, whereas the fringe parties in several instances had none. Notable is that two parties considered populist parties (SP and PVV) adopted Twitter less, even though they’ve been around some time. Both have a history of having charismatic leaders (Jan Marijnissen and Geert Wilders) who organjzed the party in a hierachical manner, trying to retain control over the party’s communications.

[Figure 1] Adoption of Twitter by candidates of political parties in the 2010 general election

For more information, check out my articles on political campaigning in election time:

 

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Journalists in the Netherlands

Late december, we (Liesbeth Hermans, Maurice Vergeer & Alexander Pleijter) published a report on a survey amongst journalists in the Netherlands. The report itself is in Dutch, but maybe with a little luck the graphs and tables speak for themselves.
Read the summary of the report below, or read the report online or download it from this download link.

The average Dutch journalist is a man of 50 years having attended a journalism course at college level. He works for a print medium, on average some 25 years. Journalists mostly have a permanent position, something that is not too obvious, because almost half of the journalists nowadays work on a freelance basis.
In recent years journalists saw more women make their appearance in the newsroom, often having a university degree. This is part of an ongoing  trend: many younger colleagues have an academic degree. What has not changed is the political orientation of his colleagues, which is still quite leftish.
The journalistic profession is mostly a full time job of 38 hours per week. Of course, there are colleagues who work part time, but there are also many colleagues who put many more hours, some up to 60 per week.
The journalists’ main activity on an average workday is writing reports and articles. In addition, they also edit the texts of other editors. All journalists perform some additional tasks. Some leave their desks to do reports, and some even take the photos to go with the articles.
Journalists see it as their task providing a service, to bring the latest news, current and important developments as quickly as possible to the audience. But also to interpret the news and complex information and to be able to present it in an understandable manner to the audience. Journalists aim to be critical of politics and government. If there are serious societal problems, it is journalists’ task to make it public. However, journalists do not want to be activists; influence the political agenda or stand up for weak groups in society. Commerce influencing journalism is something the journalists do not like at all: adapting journalistic production to suit the needs of advertisers is an abomination to them.
Journalists in general subscribe to the classic journalistic values. Independence is especially important to them, i.e. not being influenced by pressures from the government, political parties, or businesses. Journalists have their own responsibility to assess what is important and what is not. In this respect they report in an objective and neutral manner. Still considered of great importance is rebuttal and checking of information. Maintaining such journalistic principles is badly needed, according journalists. They thinks it is good that these journalistic principles are drafted in a journalistic code of conduct and supervised by the Press Council. The ethics of journalism are too important to just be left unmonitored.
Incidentally journalists think nuanced about journalistic ethics. It is not all black and white; it depends on the situation at hand. Journalists look into business or political documents, even if it is illegal, as long as it is in the public interest. This is different when it concerns private documents (e.g. letters). They would never use it, although a minority still think it is allowed in some cases. The same holds for bothering uncooperative sources and if the situation demands it –  if the situation demands it, then it needs to be done. However, journalists detest the shaming of the confidence of people who have entrusted them with information. A promise is a promise. Sources and the public should be able to trust a journalist.
Journalists provide a service to the public. When journalists write articles, they always keep in mind who the public is. They consider comments and feedback from his readers as useful. The public also provides valuable contributions at times, for example, tips or photos. That does not mean that the public should have more influence on the content of the news. Checking the facts, interpretation of trends and selecting what is important is still something that should left up to the journalists, not the public.
The Internet plays an important role in their work. Journalists are online for about 50% of the day, in particular to track the latest news, check facts and run background checks.
Journalists rarely have a blog. Some have started a blog, but about half of them already have stopped, mostly because it takes too much time because of the extra work it entails. Mostly, journalists think there are more important things to do than to maintain a blog.
Journalists use social media for journalistic work only marginally. A minority uses Twitter, particularly to read tweets. Some fanatic journalists tweet messages themselves, but that is a minority in the newsroom.
The Internet is useful, but is the Internet’s a great blessing for journalism? No, not really, according the majority of journalists. Although the Internet is no threat to the credibility of journalism, journalists feel that the Internet has affected journalistic accuracy. Most journalists feel their colleagues are too careless using information they find on the Internet. With regret they conclude that the era of checking the news first and then publishing is over.

Nederlandse journalisten in 2010. Onderzoek naar de kenmerken van de beroepsgroep, professionele opvattinge…

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