Project

By-passing the Fourth Estate

Goal: ‘Bypassing the Fourth Estate’ examines the extent to which Irish and Australian politicians bypass the scrutiny of journalists by publishing directly to online and social media. The use of social media by populist politicians, such as US President Donald Trump, has led to concern about the breakdown of the traditional relationship between the news media and politicians. During the US presidential election campaign Donald Trump repeatedly criticized the news media and masterfully used social media, primarily Twitter, to spread his messages to the public unchecked. This ability to bypass the news media is a phenomenon called ‘disintermediation’ (Coleman, 2005; Steiner, 2009), which is also referred to as ‘direct representation’ (Coleman 2005) or ‘self-representation’ (Lilleker & Koc-Michalska, 2013).

While politicians’ ability to bypass journalistic scrutiny via social media is noted in the research literature there are few empirical studies on the phenomenon. In this context, this pilot project will examine the extent to which Australian and Irish politicians are adopting this strategy and why, and the whether the public prefers unfiltered political spin to reports by the news media.

The project has three components:
(1) a content analysis of news media and political social media account to examine if and when politicians are choosing to bypass the scrutiny of journalists and publish directly to their target audiences via social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube).
(2) survey analysis, using the annual Reuters Digital News Report, to identify and assess trends regarding how media consumers prefer to access political information including
subscribing to, or following, the social media feeds (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter) of politicians as well as correlation
(3) qualitative interviewing with political media advisers to identify the strategic thinking that lies behind the targeted use of specific platforms and to assess perceptions of value and trust associated with mainstream and social media platforms.

The findings of this pilot study will lay the foundation for a wider comparative study.

The researchers:
Dr Caroline Fisher, Assistant Professor in journalism at the University of Canberra.

Dr Eileen Culloty, Institute for Future of Media and Journalism (FuJo) at Dublin City University.

Date: 1 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

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Project log

Caroline Fisher
added an update
Fisher, Culloty, Lee & Park (2019) Regaining Control: Citizens who follow politicians on social media and their perceptions of journalism, Digitial Journalism, DOI: 10.1080/21670811.2018.1519375
 
Caroline Fisher
added an update
This paper draws on some of the Australian findings from this project combined with work by another Australian researcher.
More related papers coming in the next few months.
Abstract
Traditionally politicians have been dependent on political news media to get their message across to the public. The rise of social media means that politicians can bypass the Press Gallery and publish directly to their target audiences via Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
This article argues that Prime Minister John Howard’s (1996–2007) use of talk back radio and early forays on YouTube were pivotal in the trend towards ‘disintermediation’ in Australian politics. It draws on two studies. One involving interviews with 87 key media actors from the Howard era
including journalists, broadcasters, politicians and media advisers; and a second, which includes fresh interviews with contemporary press secretaries. This article examines the shift from a ‘mass media logic’ to a ‘hybrid logic’, considered from a mediatization theoretical position. We also ask important questions about the press gallery’s ongoing relevance in the digital era, when politicians preside over their own social media empires.
 
Caroline Fisher
added a research item
Traditionally politicians have been dependent on political news media to get their message across to the public. The rise of social media means that politicians can bypass the Press Gallery and publish directly to their target audiences via Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. This article argues that Prime Minister John Howard’s (1996–2007) use of talk back radio and early forays on YouTube were pivotal in the trend towards ‘disintermediation’ in Australian politics. It draws on two studies. One involving interviews with 87 key media actors from the Howard era including journalists, broadcasters, politicians and media advisers; and a second, which includes fresh interviews with contemporary press secretaries. This article examines the shift from a ‘mass media logic’ to a ‘hybrid logic’, considered from a mediatization theoretical position. We also ask important questions about the press gallery’s ongoing relevance in the digital era, when politicians preside over their own social media empires.
Caroline Fisher
added an update
This years digital news report Australia contains new data on Australians who follow politicians and political parties on social media. It finds 20% of adult online Australians do this. They tend to follow parties of the left and are younger and more likely to be male. Key reasons for following politicians include dissatisfaction with mainstream media coverage. See the chapter on Following politicians in this report.
 
Caroline Fisher
added a research item
Survey and analysis of Australians' consumption of digital news media. It features two chapters by this researcher. One on Trust & Avoidance of news media in Australia;and the other is about Following Politicians on Social Media. The data from this second chapter forms part of the project: 'By-passing the Fourth Estate'.
Caroline Fisher
added a project goal
‘Bypassing the Fourth Estate’ examines the extent to which Irish and Australian politicians bypass the scrutiny of journalists by publishing directly to online and social media. The use of social media by populist politicians, such as US President Donald Trump, has led to concern about the breakdown of the traditional relationship between the news media and politicians. During the US presidential election campaign Donald Trump repeatedly criticized the news media and masterfully used social media, primarily Twitter, to spread his messages to the public unchecked. This ability to bypass the news media is a phenomenon called ‘disintermediation’ (Coleman, 2005; Steiner, 2009), which is also referred to as ‘direct representation’ (Coleman 2005) or ‘self-representation’ (Lilleker & Koc-Michalska, 2013).
While politicians’ ability to bypass journalistic scrutiny via social media is noted in the research literature there are few empirical studies on the phenomenon. In this context, this pilot project will examine the extent to which Australian and Irish politicians are adopting this strategy and why, and the whether the public prefers unfiltered political spin to reports by the news media.
The project has three components:
(1) a content analysis of news media and political social media account to examine if and when politicians are choosing to bypass the scrutiny of journalists and publish directly to their target audiences via social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube).
(2) survey analysis, using the annual Reuters Digital News Report, to identify and assess trends regarding how media consumers prefer to access political information including
subscribing to, or following, the social media feeds (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter) of politicians as well as correlation
(3) qualitative interviewing with political media advisers to identify the strategic thinking that lies behind the targeted use of specific platforms and to assess perceptions of value and trust associated with mainstream and social media platforms.
The findings of this pilot study will lay the foundation for a wider comparative study.
The researchers:
Dr Caroline Fisher, Assistant Professor in journalism at the University of Canberra.
Dr Eileen Culloty, Institute for Future of Media and Journalism (FuJo) at Dublin City University.