Individuals – not media organizations – led Twitter conversation in Egypt and Tunisia
A new study released by the International Journal of Communication says that journalists, bloggers and activists were responsible for spreading more information on the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt last winter than mainstream media organizations.
A new study released by the International Journal of Communication says that journalists, bloggers and activists were responsible for spreading more information during the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt last winter than mainstream media organizations.
The study looked at over 350,000 tweets containing relevant hashtags to the two uprisings that included tweets from almost 40,000 distinct users in Tunisia and over 60,000 in Egypt.
Not even Al Jazeera English – which was applauded for leading media coverage during the Arab Spring – could compete with the relevance that the individuals touted.
In both Egypt and Tunisia, about 70 per cent of tweets were identified as coming from individuals, with the remainder coming from news organizations. The study points outs that the individuals were more prominent at starting information flows – that is, tweeting information that was more likely to be re-tweeted by others or sparking conversation. As well, journalists, bloggers and activists were more likely to respond to one another, where the mainstream organizations did not engage in discussion, just dissemination.
The study concludes that the research raises questions about the convention of objectivity in journalism.
If, historically, objectivity has represented an ideal that a story or piece of information stands on its own regardless of the reporter, our data suggest that, within these Twitter networks, individual journalists were sometimes more effective disseminators of information than organizations.
The questions raised include things such as whether or not journalist accounts are simply an organizational tool to give an impression of personality, and what it means if the journalists were merely linking back to content produced by the mainstream news organization.
The study also does not take into account which accounts are regarded with more trustworthiness and accountability.