ISSN: 20010818
First published in 2012
3 issues per volume
Volume 6 Issue 3
Cover Date: October 2017
‘To follow or not to follow?’: How Belgian health journalists use Twitter to monitor potential sources
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Authors:  Sarah Van Leuven And  Annelore Deprez 
DOI: 10.1386/ajms.6.3.545_1

Keywords
newsgathering,health journalists,sources,social media,Twitter,social network analysis

Abstract
Digital technology, the Internet and mobile media are transforming the journalism and media landscape by influencing the news-gathering and sourcing process. The empowering capacities of social media applications may constitute a key element for more balanced news access and ‘inclusive journalism’. We will build on two contrasting views that dominate the social media sourcing debate. On the one hand, the literature shows that journalists of legacy media make use of social media sources to diversify their sourcing network including bottom-up sources such as ordinary citizens. On the other, various authors conclude that journalists stick with their old sourcing routines and continue to privilege top-down elite sources such as experts and government officials. In order to contribute towards this academic debate we want to clarify the Twitter practices of professional Belgian health journalists in terms of how they use the platform to monitor potential sources. Therefore, we examined the 1146 Twitter ‘followings’ of six Belgian health journalists by means of digital methods and social network analysis. Results show that top-down actors are overrepresented in the ‘following’ networks and that Twitter’s ‘following’ function is not used to reach out to bottom-up actors. In the overall network, we found that the health journalists mainly use Twitter as a ‘press club’ to monitor media actors. If we zoom in specifically on the ‘following’ network of the health-related actors, we found that media actors are still important, but experts become the most followed group. Our findings also underwrite the ‘power law’ or the ‘long tail’ distribution of social network sites as very few actors take a central position in the ‘following’ lists while the large majority of actors are not systematically monitored by the journalists.
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