Crossing the line between news and the business of news - exploring journalists' use of Twitter as a tool for self-promotion
Authors: Jukes, S.
Journal: Media and Communication
Issue: 1: Journalism and Social Media: Redistribution of Power?
The normative practices and unwritten rules of Anglo-American journalism that emerged in the late 19th Century have typically drawn a firm dividing line between those who report the news and those who run the business of news. This boundary, often referred to in the West as a 'Chinese Wall', is designed to uphold the independence of journalists from commercial interests or the whims of news proprietors. In traditional mainstream news organisations, the dividing line has often been a physical separation, with newsrooms and advertising departments housed on different floors - never the twain shall meet. But does this separation still exist in today's age of social media and at a time when news revenues are under unprecedented pressure? This paper explores journalists' use of Twitter as a now ubiquitous tool in the newsroom and focuses specifically on the practice of promoting their own stories or 'personal brand'. Are they stepping over a forbidden line and blurring the lines between news and the business? Or is this now viewed as an acceptable practice to promote a news organisation and support its financial viability? This paper explores, through a series of interviews with prominent journalists who tweet on a daily basis, the fine dividing line between dissemination of news and promotion of brand. It draws on a conceptual framework of boundary work (Carlson & Lewis, 2015) to pose the question whether such practice has now become accepted and normalised in today's news ecology. The paper also investigates the attitudes of news managers and editorial policy makers in the United Kingdom. Do they expect their journalists to engage in promotion of their stories through Twitter and to actively promote the organisation's news brand? If so, is this now part of their job description and is their Twitter activity monitored or subject to targets? At a time of digital disruption when what it means to be a journalist is being redefined, is one of the core dividing lines of journalism about to be crossed? Or has it in fact already been crossed and nobody really noticed?