On SAGE Insight: How journalists use social media in France and the United States: Analyzing technology use across journalistic fields

From New Media & Society

Extant scholarship provides opposing views on how and in what ways journalists use social media across national settings. A first perspective contends that journalists in different countries use social media in roughly similar ways. A second perspective suggests that journalists’ use of social media will vary across national settings. According to this view, technologies are used in countries with different histories, and these are likely to influence distinctive patterns of technology use. This article documents convergence and divergence in French and US journalists’ social media use.

US journalism’s heavy reliance on commercial funding, as well as its limited labor protections for journalists, incentivizes individual journalists to orient social media use toward audiences as a way to advance their careers or demonstrate efforts to address economic problems faced by their organizations. French journalism’s less direct exposure to market pressure, as well as its comparatively stronger labor protections, incentivizes news organizations to use social media to attract audiences, while leaving individual journalists to use social media as a forum for demonstrating their worth to journalists.

This article is based on 60 in-depth interviews with journalists in France and the United States. Interviews are commonly used to gather accounts and explanations of individual behavior and thus constitute a reasonable technique for learning how journalists use social media. This is especially true regarding social media, whose use is typically private in nature and difficult—though not impossible to observe directly. Moreover, given the interest in exploring cross-national similarities and differences, interviews allow for systematic attention to research design that is necessary in order to make comparisons. In conclusion a hypothesis for future comparative scholarship is suggested: namely, that technology use should overlap to the extent that practical sensibilities do.


This article examines journalists’ use of social media in France and the United States. Through in-depth interviews, we show that shared practical sensibilities ead journalists in both countries to use social media to accomplish routine tasks (e.g. gather information, monitor sources, and develop story ideas). At the same time, we argue that the incorporation of social media into daily practice also creates opportunities for journalists to garner peer recognition and that these opportunities vary according to the distinctive national fields in which journalists are embedded. Where American journalism incentivizes individual journalists to orient social media use toward audiences, French journalism motivates news organizations to use social media for these purposes, while leaving individual journalists to focus primarily on engaging with their peers. Weposition these findings in relation to debates on the uses of technologies across national settings.

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Article details
How journalists use social media in France and the United States: Analyzing technology use across journalistic fields
Matthew Powers, Sandra Vera-Zambrano
DOI: 10.1177/1461444817731566
2018, Vol. 20(8)
New Media & Society




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