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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Effects of Journalists' Social Media Activities on Audience Perceptions of Journalists and their News Products
by Lee, Jayeon Janey, Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2013, 226; 3734622
Abstract (Summary)

Social media have recently emerged as one of the primary information sources in the U.S. Journalists and news organizations have been keen on establishing a presence within digital social networks in order to utilize this new channel to build and maintain an audience. However, little is known about the practical implications of social media engagement by journalists for audience perceptions of news.

The present dissertation attempts to investigate 1) the influences of journalists' social media activities, self-disclosure and interaction with other users, on audience perceptions of the journalists; 2) if the perceptions serve as an important mediator between the social media activities and audience perceptions of the journalists'; news products; and, 3) if and how the direct and indirect effects of journalists'; social media activities are moderated by audiences'; individual differences in journalism orientation (IJO), which refers to which journalism norm audience members lean toward: engagement (public journalism norm) or detachment (objective journalism norm). Given that journalism is in a state of flux between traditional detached approaches and newer attached perspectives, these are important questions to be addressed relative to journalism in new media environments.

An experiment with multiple message stimuli was conducted in the context of a journalist's Facebook profile, and college students' perceptions of the journalist and his news product were measured via an online questionnaire. All perceptions were examined on both personal (e.g., attractiveness) and professional (e.g., objectivity and competence) dimensions.

The results provided empirical evidence that, 1) when it comes to journalists, engaging in such common social media activities as self-disclosure and interaction can significantly harm journalists in terms of their perceived competence although the same behaviors can improve perceptions of their personality. Results on the perceived objectivity dimension were mixed such that objectivity was positively influenced by interactive behaviors whereas it was negatively influenced by self-disclosure via social media; 2) Audience perceptions of journalists, formed based on their social media activities, tended to transfer to their impressions of the journalists' news products, demonstrating that the indirect effects of journalists' self-disclosures and interactions via social media on audience perceptions of their news products were mediated through audience perceptions of the journalists in terms of personality and competence although this mediation relationship was not evident in the case of journalists' self-disclosing activities and the professional-dimension perceptions; 3) These influences of journalists' social media activities were moderated by audiences'; individual journalism orientation such that the impacts of journalists'; self-disclosure on the journalists' personal and professional images (in both objectivity and competence) were in general stronger for the audiences oriented to an objective journalism norm, indicating that those with an objective orientation tend to react more sensitively to journalists' unconventional behaviors.

This set of results revealed that journalists' conforming to social media norms and acting like ordinary social media users could make not only the journalists but also their news products look personally attractive and friendly, but professionally less competent. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Holbert, R. Lance
Commitee: DeAndrea, David, Ewoldsen, David, Pingree, Ray, Van Der Heide, Brandon
School: The Ohio State University
Department: Communication
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 77/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Journalism, Communication, Mass communications
Keywords: Criteria, Evaluation, Interaction, Internet, Interpersonal communication, Journalism, Journalist, Mass communication, Mediation, Moderated-mediation, Moderation, News, Norm, Objective, Objectivity, Perception, Public, Self-disclosure, Social media
Publication Number: 3734622
ISBN: 978-1-339-23252-2
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