Journalists flock together on Twitter, report finds

Tow Center for Digital Journalism

When it comes to the popular social network Twitter, journalists at traditional and digital news organizations tend to stick together, according to a new report published Thursday from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

The report, titled "Who Retweets Whom: How Digital and Legacy Journalists Interact on Twitter," aims to provide a snapshot of how journalists at Web-native and traditional outlets behave on Twitter, the social network known for its brevity. The report tracked five of the most popular political journalists at The New York Times, BuzzFeed and Politico, which represented legacy, digital and hybrid media organizations, respectively, and analyzed 50 retweets from each reporter.

The big takeaway: Journalists at The New York Times were much more likely to retweet journalists at other traditional media organizations, and reporters from BuzzFeed were more likely to retweet journalists from other digital news organizations.

According to the report, the five reporters from The New York Times retweeted similar journalists 63 percent of the time, and BuzzFeed reporters retweeted Web-native journalists 45 percent of the time. Journalists from Politico retweeted journalists from other hybrid organizations 19 percent of the time, giving 64 percent of their retweets to journalists at other news organizations.

The report also suggests that digital journalists are less likely than traditional journalists to retweet journalists from news organizations besides their own, and vice-versa. The five Times reporters tracked by the report retweeted journalists from The New York Times 21 percent of the time, while the reporters from BuzzFeed retweeted other BuzzFeed journalists 36 percent of the time. Journalists from Politico, by comparison, retweeted journalists from news organizations besides their own 25 percent of the time.

One of the report's conclusions is that digital journalists are creating their own "circles of attention," discourse communities that are distinct from those that their counterparts at traditional publications take part in. Where once digital journalists may have taken cues from their more prestigious brethren on social media, they are now building "their own separate professional network," according to the report.

At the same time, however, traditional journalists have not gone very far in embracing the new wave of online journalists, preferring primarily to interact with others in their sector. While digital journalism is undoubtedly innovating, those innovations are, for the journalists we observed, staying mainly within the digital sector.

Here's the full report.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.


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