Sourcing the Sources

Social media today are playing a more important role as a news source than ever before. Yet, there have been no longitudinal studies on journalists’ sourcing practices in recent years that allow us to consider the mechanisms of innovation diffusion. Comparative studies of different social platforms in different media systems are just as rare. We therefore examine the use of Facebook and Twitter as journalistic sources in newspapers of three countries. A main finding is that, after a period of stagnation at the beginning of this decade, the use of social media sources has resurged massively in recent years. The patterns of this second rise of social media in journalism are almost identical in the analyzed newspapers. A comparison of the platforms has shown that Twitter is more commonly used as a news source than Facebook. Compared to Facebook, Twitter is primarily used as an elite channel. An unsupervised topic clustering approach (LDA) also revealed that the issues on which social media are sourced and the quantities of social media references are similar in The New York Times and The Guardian. In Süddeutsche Zeitung, however, journalists source social media considerably less, and in different thematic contexts.