Are Twitter and YouTube the new networked news wires? A quantitative content analysis of journalists' sourcing practices during the Arab Spring

Sarah Van Leuven UGent , Annelore Deprez UGent , Karin Raeymaeckers UGent ,
Etmaal van de communicatiewetenschappen


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 bear the cost of correspondents on the spot.

As a consequence foreign news desks, for their information gathering, are increasingly depending on the international news wires and international news media whose information they often 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, Williams & Franklin, 2008; McManus, 1994).

The Internet and more specifically Web 2.0 applications or social media such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube have yet re-opened the debate on the emancipatory potential of media use.

In the context of globalization and digitalization, 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 journalists are connected in a networked media matrix. These authors state that the interactivity, connectivity, and flexibility of Web 2.0 applications 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 (Beckett, 2012; Brundidge, 2010; Castells, 2010; Dahlgren, 2005; Habermas, 2006; Heinrich, 2011).