A new study of Twitter use by reporters based in Washington, D.C. finds that those journalists might be “more insular than previously thought.”
The study found that by observing the reporters interactions on the social media site those journalists congregate in even smaller “microbubbles,” according to the University of Illinois News in a piece published Wednesday. (RELATED: Exclusive: Inside The Media Conspiracy To Hype Greta Thunberg)
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The study looked at the online conversations of more than 2,000 D.C.-based journalists and found that Beltway journalism “may be even more insular than previously thought,” study authors Nikki Usher and Yee Man Margaret Ng shared. (RELATED: Kayleigh McEnany Pivots From Briefing Question To Full-On Attack On CNN)
The authors said the results are “raising additional concerns about vulnerability to groupthink and blind spots.”
The two Illinois University professors identified nine clusters of journalists ranging from a TV producer “cluster” to the “elite/legacy” cluster of journalists who work for outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times.
“Most of the time, what happens on Twitter does not reflect the real world,” Usher said. “But in the case of political journalism and political elites, generally speaking, what happens on Twitter is reality.”
“So this was a particularly potent way of looking, at scale, at how ideas are exchanged, how people are making sense of things,” she added.
“With more than 2,000 journalists in this study, we could not observe each of them individually in real life,” Ng explained. “So we used their digital life as a way to understand how they interact with their peers.”
According to the article:
The researchers started with a list of all credentialed congressional correspondents as found in the Congressional Directory, then identified those with active Twitter accounts.
Ng collected all the tweets, retweets and replies posted on most of those accounts over two months in early 2018, using Twitter’s application-programming interface. She winnowed those further to only those sent between or referencing other Beltway journalists.
The final research consisted of 133,529 Twitter posts from 2,015 journalists, about one-third of which were credentialed congressional correspondents, per the outlet.
Usher explained what they found was those journalists labeled in the “elite/legacy cluster” were among the most “insular,” with more than 68% of the cluster members’ Twitter interactions being with other journalists in that same group.
“That also may mean they’re not engaging, in the same kind of way, with the people who are actually on the ground getting these sorts of congressional microscoops, they’re not engaging with the journalists who are the policy wonks,” she added.
Usher continued, while noting that “political journalists in D.C. are people who use Twitter all day. And so the question is what does that do to how they think about the world. And generally, from this paper and a previous one I did on gender and Beltway journalism, it seems to me that it can make things worse.”