Twitter Subgroups Have Little Trust in News Media, Study Finds

Twitter Subgroups Have Little Trust in News Media, Study Finds

Members of so-called Twitter subcultures catering to African Americans, Asian Americans, and feminists have little faith or trust in news media in general and often bypass news media outlets as a means of raising awareness about issues important to their communities, a report from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation finds.

The report, How Black Twitter and Other Social Media Communities Interact With Mainstream News (92 pages, PDF), is the largest study ever of interactions between the news media and such online groups, of which Black Twitter is the largest. The analysis of more than forty-six million tweets with community-related hashtags from 2015-16 examined how these communities use digital media to access news they can trust as well as their perceptions of that coverage. In-depth interviews with community participants and journalists also highlighted gaps in media coverage and the ways in which reporters interact with these communities to develop and source stories.

Among other things, the report found that Twitter subcultures give voice to issues that mainstream media don't cover; that community members express low levels of trust in the media; that study participants routinely bypass mainstream media as a news source; that critiques of media outlets often relate to how outlets frame an issue; and that engagement on social media doesn't necessarily equate with favorability. The report includes a favorability analysis of twenty-three major news outlets which found that participants were twice as likely to express a negative view of an outlet as a positive view and criticized and censured news media outlets more often than they praised or endorsed them.

The report also includes recommendations for journalists looking to improve their relationships with these online communities and urges newsrooms to hire more staff from these communities as an important step toward closing the diversity gap in mainstream media.

"While a diverse staff is important to improving the relationship with the audience and ensuring relevant coverage," said LaSharah Bunting, Knight's director of journalism, "newsrooms must also commit to regularly listening to and engaging with readers."