A 'facebook revolution' in foreign coverage? A quantitative content analysis of journalists' sourcing practices during the Arab Spring

Sarah Van Leuven , Karin Raeymaeckers , Annelore Deprez ,
4th European Communication Conference


Since the 1980s concerns have been raised about the increasing commercialisation of the media. Numerous scholars state that the economic rationale prompts news organisations to stress cost-cutting and efficiency considerations. It is often argued that foreign coverage is one of the first victims of this ‘market-driven journalism’, for instance because news media no longer can or want to pay correspondents on the spot. As a consequence foreign news desks, for their information gathering, are increasingly dependent on the international news wires and international news media, whose information they merely domesticate for their own national public. The result is a world view that is mainly dominated by official and powerful actors’ interpretation of events (Berglez, 2008; Buijs et al. 2009; Davies, 2008; Lewis, Willliams & Franklin, 2008; McManus, 1994). The Internet and more specifically Web 2.0 applications or social media have yet re-opened the debate on the emancipatory potential of media use. Some scholars witness a shift from individualistic top-down monomedia journalism to participatory multimedia journalism characterised by networked communication, a synthesis of interpersonal and mass communication where audiences and mass media producers are connected in one, networked media matrix. These authors state that Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube invite a more diverse use of journalistic sources that might lead to a more balanced media access for a wider range of actors, including civil society organisations and individual citizens. This ‘network journalism’ offers possibilities for a global outlook in international news that approaches world events from various – not only national and/or official - perspectives (Brundidge, 2010; Castells, 2010; Dahlgren, 2005; Habermas, 2006; Heinrich, 2011). Several studies indicate how the importance of social media might especially hold true in times of breaking news and media restrictions (...)