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Social Media in Ecuador: Impact on Journalism
Practice and Citizens’ Understanding of Public
Manuel Goyanes, Paulo Carlos López-López & Márton Demeter
To cite this article: Manuel Goyanes, Paulo Carlos López-López & Márton Demeter (2020): Social
Media in Ecuador: Impact on Journalism Practice and Citizens’ Understanding of Public Politics,
Journalism Practice, DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2020.1724180
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2020.1724180
Published online: 11 Feb 2020.
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Social Media in Ecuador: Impact on Journalism Practice and
Citizens’Understanding of Public Politics
, Paulo Carlos López-López
and Márton Demeter
Department of Communication, Carlos III University, Madrid, Spain;
Democracy Research Unit (DRU),
Political Science, University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain;
Department of Political Science, Santiago de
Compostela University, Santiago de Compostela, Spain;
Department of Communication, National University
of Public Service, Budapest, Hungary
The omnipresence and ubiquitous nature of online news on social
media has challenged the traditional news production process of
most news organizations worldwide. However, most research on
this topic has dealt with the impact of social networks on global
North societies. In this article, drawing upon a world-systemic
approach, we focus on how social media transforms journalism
practice in Ecuador and explore its main inﬂuences on how
journalists make sense of and evaluate their professional roles.
Based on interviews with 40 Ecuadorian journalists having a
variety of backgrounds and levels of experience, we show how
social media aﬀects journalists’professional practices,
conceptualizing these inﬂuences as systemic and antisystemic
phenomena. The most important systemic consequences of social
media are related to the immediate nature of news, the changing
identity of journalists and the growing wave of sensationalism,
while the most important antisystemic feature is the nourishing of
an indigenous orientation whereby Ecuadorian journalists favor
their own rhetorical and narrative traditions against global
Journalism; Ecuador; Latin
America; social media;
journalism culture; world-
Since the emergence of the Internet, digital journalism has undergone a signiﬁcant trans-
formation, as a result of a myriad of organizational, industrial and technological challenges
that have aﬀected the news business (Deuze and Witschge 2018). Readers’consumption
patterns have changed dramatically as well (Goyanes 2019), due to the popularization of
social media platforms and their growing relevance in news sharing, dissemination and
discussion (Swart, Peters, and Broersma 2018). According to recent market research,
most people obtain news on social media, even though many have concerns about its
accuracy (Matsa and Shearer 2018). News-workers have also adapted their professional
skills to the demanding digital realm, in which the immediacy and omnipresence of
news on social media have become the benchmark of the business (Hermida 2010). In
this context, a growing number of media scholars are concerned about the potentially
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Paulo Carlos López-López firstname.lastname@example.org
distorted eﬀects that social media might have on journalistic practice and thus on citizens’
understanding of current events and politics. However, extant research focused mostly on
global North communities (Fletcher and Nielsen 2019; Shehata and Strömbäck 2018), pre-
vents us from gleaning more evidence on how technological revolutions like the Internet
or social media aﬀect journalism practices beyond the Western world.
This article explores how journalists in Ecuador are using social media platforms and
how, in turn, they are changing journalistic practices. Through 40 in-depth interviews
with news-workers from diﬀerent regional and national news organizations, we try to elu-
cidate how journalists are transforming journalism and are transformed by the consolida-
tion of social media platforms for professional duties. We employed the world-systems
theory as benchmark framework in order to position and compare our observations
with the theoretical insights proposed by central Euro-American scholarships. Drawing
upon this perspective, we also identify both systemic (global) and antisystemic (resistant)
processes whereby Ecuadorian journalist make sense of their professional roles. Our
ﬁndings ﬁrst describe the professional culture of Ecuadorian journalism in a world-sys-
temic framework, reﬂecting upon its nature and main idiosyncratic features. We also
empirically illustrate the heightened role of immediacy on social media platforms to articu-
late the news production process of most news organizations, giving rise to a new wave of
sensationalism, while reinforcing the traditional role of journalists as watchdogs. This
article contributes to the budding literature on de-Westernization in communication
sciences (Waisbord 2019), providing an inductive angle that displays both pull and push
eﬀects in the context of the globalization of journalism.
Latin America and Ecuador in the World-System
As a consequence of a growingly globalized world, social subsystems that have thus far
been investigated on a national or regional level should be analyzed with respect to
global power relations (Demeter 2019). As Chase-Dunn puts it (1999), our societal ﬁelds
(i.e., economy, politics, culture or communication) are globally interconnected in a way
that all participators have their speciﬁc power position. The founding father of the
world-systemic perspective, Immanuel Wallerstein argues (2004), that these societal reali-
ties are not separate from the dynamics of the overall world-system, but rather play essen-
tial parts in its operation. Galtung (1971) even assumes that these subsystems—including
education, popular culture and media industry—help to maintain the hegemony of the
Euro-American center through the circulation of central values and professional culture.
As a branch of world-systems analysis, world polity research speciﬁcally investigates the
role of culturally oriented organizational and institutional processes (Cole 2017; Meyer
et al. 1997). This tradition states that diﬀerent—collective or individual—participants in
the world-system are “embedded in and shaped by a global cultural, social, and political
environment, resulting in a great deal of decoupled isomorphism among them”(Cole
In the case of journalism studies, this feature can be illustrated in at least three estab-
lished traditions. First, as we have already mentioned, extant research on journalism prac-
tices and professional standards mostly deal with central regions in terms of both
theoretical and empirical approaches (Antunovic, Parsons, and Cooke 2018; Costera
Meijer and Groot Kormelink 2015; Hermida 2010). Second, Western types of media
structure and professional practices are usually considered as international or even as ideal
implementations of professional journalistic standards (Hallin and Mancini 2004). Third,
even if media systems beyond the Western world are considered (Mihelj and Huxtable
2018), they are analyzed from a Western central point of view, while peripheral perspec-
tives or decolonized epistemologies are usually ignored (Hallin and Mancini 2012). Thus,
an inductive analysis of the professional standards of peripheral regions (like Ecuador) is
essential, as it might hint at potential directions to counteract and challenge established
discourses on journalism practices and professional role models established in the West.
According to Wallerstein, the world-system is an international and multicultural
network in which diﬀerent necessities—money, labor power, energy, knowledge, infor-
mation and so on—ﬂow (Wallerstein 1974a,1974b,1979). The world-system is such that
it includes diﬀerent nations with diﬀerent cultures, languages, norms, institutions and
values. Chase-Dunn and Hall (1997b)deﬁnes world-systems as “intersocietal networks in
which the interactions (e.g., trade, warfare, intermarriage, information) are important for
the reproduction of the internal structures of the composite units and importantly
aﬀect changes that occur in these local structures”(Chase-Dunn and Hall 1997b, 403).
From our point of view, the most important feature of the world-system is that it tends
to develop a typical core–periphery (Wallerstein 1979) or core semiperiphery structure
(Chase-Dunn and Hall 1997b). Accordingly, we must ﬁrst determine the systemic position
of our analyzed region in order to be able to use a global perspective.
In Hall and Chase-Dunn’s generalized model (2006), Latin America is an important
example of semi-peripheries. According to the hypothesis of semiperipheral development,
transformational changes are mainly brought about by the actions of individuals and
organizations within polities that are semiperipheral relative to the other polities in the
same system (Chase-Dunn and Morasin 2013). Semiperipheral regions are relevant in
the understanding of the world-system’s operation since, as mediating agents, they
produce both systemic acts whereby they tend to move along with the center, and anti-
systemic counter-movements (Robinson 2008) through which they try to resist central
inﬂuence (Wallerstein 1990). According to both empirical measurements (Kentor 2000,
2008) and historical analysis (Frank 1967; Mahoney 2012), Latin America counts as a
semi-periphery in the world-system, meaning that such countries share important semi-
peripheral commonalities including low to middle GDP per capita, high to moderate econ-
omic dependence, indigenous rebellions, anti-colonial struggles for independence and
autonomy, foreign intervention, and so on (Galeano 1987).
The accurate position of a given country in the world-system can be determined by a
matrix that deals with both geopolitical position and development (Kentor 2008), and sys-
temic attitude (Chase-Dunn and Morasin 2013). Based on the variables that have been
developed by Kentor (2000,2008), Chase-Dunn and Morasin (2013) considered Ecuador
as a peripheral country, as opposed with other, more developed Latin-American nations
such as Brazil or Mexico, generally considered as semi-peripheral regions. Peripherality
here refers to the geopolitical and developmental position of Ecuador. Regarding systemic
attitudes through which peripheral regions relate to the center, in Latin America, there are
non-progressive countries that sympathize with neoliberal values, Western ideologies and
where social welfare measures are not a high priority of state policy. Typical examples are
Colombia and Mexico. Progressive countries could be both reformist or antisystemic
(Smith and Wiest 2012). An antisystemic regime, according to Wallerstein (1990) argues
JOURNALISM PRACTICE 3
that neither liberty nor equality is possible under the current world-system, so in order to
be free and equal, the system should be changed. Reformists are less radical, since besides
being internally progressive, they do not oppose international relations and international
free trade policies. Based on a historical/political analysis, Chase-Dunn and Morasin (2013)
considered Argentina and Brazil as progressive, reformist countries, while seeing Ecuador,
Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba as progressive and also antisystemic countries. Thus, in a
world-systemic matrix, Ecuador might be viewed as a peripheral antisystemic country.
Social Media and Journalism in Ecuador
Ecuadorian journalism is determined by the state of private media companies in the
country, with four main characteristics (Becerra 2014): the absence of a concept of
public service in the scope of private media; the existence of big media conglomerates
that aﬀect content diversity (Mastrini and Becerra 2007); intra-state interactions where
cities establish a center/periphery relationship with the rest of the country; and ﬁnally, a
media system that has evolved under low regulation, but under a great degree of
control by governments and business owners (Fox and Waisbord 2002). Regarding the
latter, in 2008, Ecuador passed a new constitutional document whose implementation pro-
gressively reinforced state action, leading to political, economic, social and even media
changes. Journalism has been subjected to more signiﬁcant interference through new
laws and regulations with respect to media licensing, radio frequencies, content, and
the increase in state-owned media companies, as well as community media (Oller
Alonso and Chavero Ramírez 2014). In a study about the situation of journalism in Latin
America (Saldaña and Mourao 2018), ﬁndings indicate that the main professional chal-
lenges facing Ecuadorian journalists are connected with political and economic pressure,
censure or lack of transparency, corruption and crime.
In relation to Ecuadorian professional proﬁles, more than two thirds of news-workers
are male, with a university degree (66.3% hold a bachelor’s degree, 11.3% have a
master’s degree, and 2.5% a doctorate), and an average age of 35 years (Oller Alonso
et al. 2016). This ﬁgure shows a paucity of resistance to digital transformations, as most
of them are digital natives. In fact, although a high percentage of Ecuadorian journalists
have a bachelor’s degree (Gonzáles Córdova 2016), they are generally unhappy with the
training they have received. This is mainly due to the disparity between the skills
learned in the classroom and those actually required for the profession (Atala, Chéné,
and Panamá 2017). In addition, according to Odriozola Chené, Aguirre Mayorga, and
Bernal Suárez (2016), Facebook is the most popular channel among journalists (68%), fol-
lowed by Twitter (64%).
Problem Statement and Research Questions
Regarding world-systemic attitudes, we can assume that both pull and push eﬀects play
important roles among journalists in Ecuador. First, there should be systemic movements
that pull the journalistic culture towards central (Western) values, attitudes and policies. An
important feature of the pro-Western attitude is a sort of inferiority complex whereby
Ecuadorian media may prefer to copy Western program formats, while a clear identity
of Ecuadorian media is still missing (Punín-Larrea, Martínez, and Rencoret 2014).
Another pro-systemic dynamic of the Ecuadorian media might be related to the growing
importance of the Internet and social media sites, both products of the West (Jordan 2013).
Thus, for every world region of the global South (Rigg 2007), the penetration of the Inter-
net and the popularity of social media go hand in hand with the dissemination of Western
cultural values (Thomas-Slayter 2003).
Regarding push eﬀects, globalization has also given birth to anti-globalization and anti-
systemic movements, especially in more or less progressive parts of the global South
(Braveboy-Wagner 2009). Thus, an anti-Western attitude may also be presumed
amongst journalists in Ecuador or, at least, we can expect an ambivalent position
towards Western journalistic values and traditions. As Thomas-Slayter (2003) puts it,
regions of the global South rightly fear some level of cultural annihilation from the
center and, as a consequence, there are widespread waves of emancipation, self-respect
and self-determination. On the other hand, there is also a desire to espouse the
Western way of life with cell phones, fast Internet, science and technology, leading to a
situation of conﬂicting desires to both reject and embrace Westernization, and one
which is characteristic of the global South (Thomas-Slayter 2003). Since in Ecuador, the
vast majority of journalists are male, under 40 and have a university degree in communi-
cations or journalism (Oller Alonso et al. 2016) we can assume that they have a somewhat
higher degree of commitment to international (central) values that would balance their
antisystemic attitudes (Chase-Dunn and Morasin 2013). Based on our theoretical consider-
ations and the position that Ecuador holds in the world-system, we formulated our
research questions as follows:
RQ1: Which push (systemic) and pull (antisystemic) attitudes are characteristic of the pro-
fessional practices of Ecuadorian journalists?
RQ2: What eﬀect has the emergence of social media platforms had on the balance between
systemic and antisystemic attitudes of Ecuadorian journalists?
We conducted in-depth interviews with 40 Ecuadorian journalists. These semi-structured
interviews were carried out between November and March 2019, all of them face-to-face.
We used purposive sampling, speciﬁcally maximum variety sampling. Following Patton
(2002), journalists were chosen to reﬂect a large diversity in information-rich cases relevant
to the research interest: we included in the sample journalists from diﬀerent regional/
national/local newspapers, with diﬀerent cohorts of ages, experiences, responsibilities, sec-
tions and gender. At the time of the interview, participants worked for news providers such
as Últimas Noticias, El Norte, El Tiempo, La Hora, Extra, El Universo, etc. Our respondents thus
represent a great heterogeneity in their proﬁles. The interviews were transcribed by the
second author and later codiﬁed and analyzed by the ﬁrst. The ﬁnal sample represented a
wide range of demographic data and work proﬁles. Fifty-ﬁve per cent of our ﬁnal sample
were men, while forty-ﬁve per cent were women. The anonymity of interviewees was guaran-
teed and we only provide their position (editor, society journalist, sport journalist, etc.), and the
geographical reach of their news organization (L = Local; R = Regional; N = National).
The interview guide addressed three topic areas. The ﬁrst part concerned
participants’perceptions of the eﬀects of social media on journalism practice. Questions
JOURNALISM PRACTICE 5
addressed how participants use social media in relation to their daily work routines
and news production process, emphasizing also how they see social platforms to
be transforming news diﬀusion.Thesecondpartconcernedtheroleofsocialmediaplat-
forms in modifying or challenging journalist identiﬁes and professional skills, assessing
the potential transformations in relation to previous journalism work. Finally, the third
part focused on how social media aﬀects their relationship with readers, as well as strat-
egies to foster interactivity and dialogue, and a general assessment of such interactions.
All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim following transcription rules
proposed by Dresing and Schmieder (2013). We conducted a thematic analysis,
which posits “a method for identifying, analyzing and reporting patterns (themes)
within data”(Braun and Clarke 2006, 79). We followed the six-phase analytic procedure
proposed by Braun and Clarke (2006) that allows for the systematization and transpar-
ency of the coding and analysis process. Codes and thematic maps were discussed with
two independent researchers, which then informed the reﬁnement of themes, their
deﬁnition and naming. Thematic analysis allowed us to identify shared patterns
across the statements of various interviewees, centered around our three research inter-
ests, while remaining open to identifying other emerging themes. In the next section,
we discuss the key ﬁndings.
Contextual Factors: Crisis, Politics, History and References
As in many other countries in both the global North and South, journalism in Ecuador is
suﬀering from a severe economic and ﬁnancial crisis, a decline in print newspapers and
the inability of most news organizations to monetize online news. These features are, to
a great degree, systemic, due to the interconnectedness of international ﬁnancial net-
works and global markets. Thus, economic crises aﬀect both the center and the dependent
peripheries (Abreu, Alves, and Gulamhussen 2019). “We are in a deep crisis, looking for cer-
tainty and new ways of monetizing digital content”, comments a sports coordinator (L7).
This ﬁnancial crisis resonates in all news organizations across Ecuador, and often prevents
journalists from being promoted. As a society journalist points out: “with the growing
media crisis, the professional growth of many journalists has stagnated. At this time, it
is no longer possible to be promoted to new positions”(N26). Therefore, not only
ﬁnancial but also technological transformations in digital journalism have undeniably
aﬀected journalists’working conditions, in a context where print newspapers are no
longer the cash cows they used to be—a phenomenon which is fully global, and thus
When assessing the overall situation of the profession in Latin America in general and
Ecuador in particular and its relationship with politics, we found contradictory testimonies.
For instance, an experienced editor stated:
You have to analyze speciﬁc cases, countries that are politically threatened like Venezuela,
Nicaragua and Honduras, which have dictatorial governments where you are persecuted for
writing certain news. With the exception of these, I believe that the rest may still have
some problems relating to access to information, but in terms of freedom of expression,
there is a good atmosphere. (R13)
However, for many others, the relationship between journalism and politics is critical, due
to the limited access to political sources, the restrictive interpretation of freedom of
speech, and the politically-motivated manipulation of content.
Very beaten [journalism], there are a lot of restrictions, there is no freedom of expression, you
have to always take special care in what you say or write, you cannot use all the information
you have. (L1)
I believe that it is still limited by not being able to access sources, sometimes the government
tricks you, journalists are persecuted, especially the daily La Hora. Freedom of the press is still
lacking, even access to information is not complete. (R25)
In addition, in a more general context, and also stemming from the restricted view of the
freedom of speech, a society journalist working for El Comercio believes that journalism is in
a constant struggle due to its traditional relationship with violence: “We continue to struggle
on a daily basis against the death of journalists, as happened with our brothers in El Comercio.In
Mexico, to date, 13 journalists have died, and this is a reality to which we are exposed.”(N40)
However, despite these challenges, many participants acknowledge that journalism in Latin
America has a distinctive imprint that make it diﬀerent from other cultures. This imprint is trans-
lated into the spirit of their chronicles, the emotions transmitted and the characters created:
I think it is a journalism of character, which seeks to provoke peoples’interest and reach their
In Latin America, there is also a long tradition of great chroniclers. I think that, even with fewer
economic resources, Latin American journalism has achieved high levels of quality in many
According to our testimonies, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico are arguably the three
most important references in shaping Ecuadorian journalism practice. This phenomenon
is fully consistent with Chase-Dunn and Hall’s model on semiperipheral development
(1997a). According to this model, relatively coherent world regions at the periphery
tend to elevate their own centers that become role models for the other countries.
With this, the formerly peripheral new centers of those world regions become semi-per-
ipheries in a world-systemic context. These new centers could play an important role
when it comes to antisystemic movements in which the periphery refuses to automatically
follow central (Western) ideas and values (Chase-Dunn 1999). The coordinator of a news-
paper website puts it in the following terms:
I think the most prominent countries are Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, since they have
had schools of journalism for many years and they are the clearest examples of a journalism
that has been evolving, having a huge impact on our views. (R26)
Echoing this view, an economic news-worker states: “I can say that the inﬂuences we have
received from Colombia and Argentina are the most signiﬁcant.”(N39) Beyond traditional
journalism schools, certain crucial references and masters of the craft shape Ecuadorian
perspectives on journalism practice. García Márquez and Vargas Llosa are arguably the
ones cited most referenced often, as illustrated by the following respondents:
We have Nobel prize winners who were journalists, such as García Márquez and Vargas Llosa.
There are very good ones, like the Argentinian chronicler who is in Spain, Martín Caparrós.
They are the trailblazers and we follow them. (N28)
JOURNALISM PRACTICE 7
There is a huge school of journalism that Gabriel García Máquez started and, since him, much
eﬀort has been put into keeping this tradition in diﬀerent countries such as Colombia, Chile
and Ecuador. If you look at our news pieces, we continue this tradition, giving a special
focus to local news and folkloric nationalism, unlike European journalism which is much
colder, rougher …(N29)
Immediate News on Social Media and Its Implications for Journalistic Practice
According to our ﬁndings, in line with global processes fueled by the penetration of the
Internet in the news industry (Kim, Chen, and De Zúñiga 2013), social media has severely
aﬀected the news production process of Ecuadorian journalists. We conceptualize these
changes and transformations as being the product of news immediacy. Speciﬁcally,
news immediacy refers to journalists’sense making of news on social media and their fun-
damental compulsion to transmit and disseminate news as soon as possible. A local jour-
nalist puts it in the following terms: “Now everything is much faster, everything needs to
be fast and immediate when using social media.”(L12) Echoing this perspective, an econ-
omics journalist adds: “news in social media is almost immediate. So journalists of diﬀerent
news outlets have to dip into these issues and create stories about them. Our survival
depends on that.”(N38) Therefore, immediacy not only frames journalists’discourse on
social media for news, but is also crucial to the survival of most news organizations in
the digital realm. This phenomenon is certainly the consequence of a central pull eﬀect,
since the Internet in general, and social media in particular—as products of the Western
center—are deliberately developed in order to be international, and are based on
central ideas on the functioning of the neoliberal global market (Prasad 2006). Among
others, immediacy is deﬁnitely part of twenty-ﬁrst century Western culture (Kaizen
2016). By adopting the demands of immediacy, Ecuadorian journalists unwillingly adopt
central values as well.
In addition, beyond the traditional production process of news, digital content on social
media also challenges the way in which news is conceived. An international journalist
expresses it in the following terms: “People want to know straight away what is happening
and that also transforms the way you write.”(N30) A print newspaper coordinator intro-
duced the idea that news “capsules”disseminated in social media prevent many
readers from getting the big picture:
social media aﬀects journalism and I perceive it in its immediacy. We have mistakenly accus-
tomed the public to believe that social media is the news. However, we did not explain the
public that they need to take the next step, to reﬂect, to analyze. (L2)
Likewise, the immediate nature of news on social media encourages many people to
publish and share non-veriﬁed content. This triggers the growing dissemination of fake
news and misinformation. “Now it is much easier to be informed and many people may
feel they are journalists, disseminating a lot of non-veriﬁed information”, a print journalist
laments (N31). Echoing this opinion, a local journalist suggests: “now every citizen can
provide information, triggering problems of veracity”(L12). An online newspaper coordi-
nator provides a dramatic example of the potential damage caused by fake news in
In the city of Quevedo a few years ago there was a case of a kidnapped child. A man was
accused of the crime and sent to prison, and later it was discovered that the man had been
joking. Disinformation from social media was the cause, because a video from a digital news-
paper had gone viral and that was where all this false information had come from. (N32)
Throughout our interviews, most of our respondents were very concerned about the
impact of fake news on citizens’understanding of public aﬀairs and politics. An editor
of a national newspaper provides signiﬁcant data of the relevance and reach of fake
news on social media:
Social media has aﬀected us with fake news and creating disinformation. We ran an analysis
last week and, of 100% of what was published on social media, only 10% was veriﬁed infor-
mation, that is, 90% is false information which perhaps simulates newspaper output. (N33)
In this uncertain environment, in which the boundaries of professional identities are chal-
lenged, many of our respondents seem to believe that they are crucial to prevent fake
news, serving as an antidote to the growing disinformation on social media. A society
coordinator expresses it in the following terms: “We are in a privileged position as gate-
keepers. We need to conﬁrm the information we publish. Many readers expect information
in media outlets to be conﬁrmed.”(R20) Our testimonies, in general, addressed the tactics
that news organizations usually follow to ﬁght fake news and the growing misinformation
on social media. These tactics are exempliﬁed by a local journalist: “In our newspaper, we
ﬁrst plan the topics, search for the sources, do the ﬁeldwork, write as plainly as possible for
the Internet and then develop the topic more thoroughly in the print newspaper.”(L8) In
order to capture readers’attention in social media and to be the ﬁrst to publish a piece of
news, many of our respondents acknowledge that they become more sensationalistic. The
editor of a national newspaper explains: “We have been forced by social media to be faster
in what we publish, to be more sensationalistic. But sensationalism also makes people
return to the print newspaper in search of truth.”(N34) Therefore, according to this
editor, sensationalism is a technique for disseminating news on social media that aims
to generate print traﬃc.
Print Newspapers, Online Newspapers and Social Media
For most of our participants, the dissemination of news has entered a new era in which
immediacy and the visual nature of content permeate the new discourses on digital jour-
nalism. In this realm, what was usual becomes obsolete, while social media platforms are
established as the central domains for news dissemination, turning micro-messages into a
fundamental mode of news production. A society journalist explains it in the following
Our route is the following one: Facebook, Twitter, web and print newspaper. We no longer
think about the big news. Now immediacy makes you work from the micro to the macro.
The important thing is to be on Twitter, and then we see what we publish in the print news-
The traditional Ecuadorian approach was to think in terms of the print newspaper ﬁrst, but
with the emergence of social media, our testimonies emphasized the opposite. An econ-
omic journalist noted:
Before, we thought in terms of starting from the print newspaper and moving towards the
digital one. Now we think from digital to print, because the ﬁrst thing you need to decide
JOURNALISM PRACTICE 9
is what we are going to put on Facebook, on Twitter, on the web, and then publish this piece
of news in the print newspaper with a deeper angle. (N37)
All of our interviewees refer to the preponderance of the digital newspaper over the print
one and the tactics outlined previously: longer and more in-depth news in the print news-
paper, and short, visual and high-impact pieces for digital platforms.
Before, we wrote for the print paper, more in-depth news and more facts. Now we ﬁrst think
about the headline and the number of characters to post the information on social media.
Then we develop the same piece of news in the print newspaper. (N37)
We constantly send important news to social media tweets or posts, usually with attractive
photographs and ﬂashy headlines, accompanied with humor whenever possible. (R22)
Eﬀects of Social Media on Journalists’Professional Proﬁles
Most of our respondents believe that social media in particular and digital journalism in
general have aﬀected their identities and professional proﬁles. An economics journalist
provides an insightful example:
The main change is that it [digital journalism] has made us speed up. Now we need to have
diﬀerent visions and narratives. In addition, we not only need to write well, but also we need to
have some notions of photography and television. We are in a multi-platform environment
and we need to be all-terrain professionals. (L10)
Echoing this perspective, a national journalist acknowledges:
With the new technologies, journalists are expected to write for newspapers, appear on radio
programs, update social networks, send videos, and report live over the phone. Of course, news-
rooms have been transformed, and it has been a hazardous generational transformation. (N39)
Social media platforms have not only challenged the news production process and news dis-
semination strategies of Ecuadorian newspapers, but have also aﬀected the hiring process:
Recently we had to hire a journalist and we did not even post it on a hiring platform. I pub-
lished the position on my Facebook account and I got 100 CVs from people who have worked
for 20 years in journalism. But the proﬁle we are looking for is diﬀerent. We are looking for a
digital journalist who knows how to use digital tools, who is a connoisseur of social media,
who can manage data and who knows how to write well. (R12)
Despite social transformations in the above-mentioned aspects, it is also relevant to note
that, for some interviewees, the nature of both digital and print journalism have remained
the same. Therefore, although the environment has changed, the essence and traditional
tenets of journalism remain the same:
Despite the substantial changes in digital journalism, I believe that the essence of journalism
has not changed. It requires the ability to prioritize, to investigate and to transmit content with
ethics, honesty and credibility. (N36)
Use of Social Media to Foster Digital Journalism
The majority of our respondents acknowledged that social media is a key tool to maintain
conversations with readers and to obtain potential relevant information about social
reality. In addition, conversations using social media allow our respondents to know
readers’perceptions about the value, quality and informative power of their news pro-
duction. An online newspaper coordinator explained: “now we can be close to readers.
In social media, we know what they read, what they don’t, what they are interested in
and what they are not interested in”(L11). Echoing this perspective, a national journalist
stated: “the relationship with readers has changed because now we can know what excites
them and be focused on that. That is something positive that social media has brought”
(N39). A local journalist even gave her WhatsApp number to a potential source in order to
have a closer relationship:
[social media] has allowed me to get closer. It’s easier to know the public and get closer to
their reality. My strategy is always to build trust with the reader and give them even my What-
sApp number. Conversations are purely professional and thus are very positive. (L6)
These conversations allow our interviewees to grasp social reality and be informed about
potential news about areas, neighborhoods or communities across Ecuador. An online
newspaper journalist explained:
We maintain more direct contact with our readers through social media and that is a great
advantage. We receive complaints about the things that happen in neighborhoods, and
this helps us to go directly in search of the problems and try to solve what our readers
Social media thus changes the access to news sources, turning them into a key channel for
understanding, knowing and being aware of crucial social forces that shape social reality.
Moreover, an online journalist provides descriptive insight into the relevance of social
media for journalism in Ecuador, addressing the key role in disseminating news contents
not covered by news organizations:
The relationship with readers on social media is extremely valuable. Recently I had a strong
personal issue, my dad got sick, and, at Hospital del Seguro where we were, a million things
were happening. First, as a son and second as a journalist, you realize that things are
wrong. I could not put this in the newspaper, but I opened a thread on Twitter telling this
story and you have no idea how many people reacted, you ﬁnd that feedback. It seems to
me that the media in Ecuador has a major shortcoming in that it is far away from the
public, it still looks down on them; but social media brings you closer. (R14)
Social media platforms have been developed by Western societies, and they have a huge
impact on readers’news consumption patterns and the way in which news organizations
produce and disseminate content all around the globe (Matsa and Shearer 2018).
However, even in a networked global world-system (Wallerstein 2004), central technologi-
cal and cultural initiations can aﬀect world regions diﬀerently, depending on their geopo-
litical positions and attitudes towards the global center (Chase-Dunn 1999). Our analysis
aims to further existing studies on the potential eﬀects of social media use on journalism
practices, emphasizing the distinct role of global South communities and, specially,
Ecuador. As a result, our ﬁndings might challenge or nuance central scholarship, illustrat-
ing how pull (systemic) and push (antisystemic) attitudes inﬂuence journalism practices in
a country with a peripheral position and a traditional antisystemic polity (Chase-Dunn and
Morasin 2013). Based on interviews with 40 Ecuadorian journalists from diﬀerent news
JOURNALISM PRACTICE 11
organizations throughout the country, we provide four contributions to this line of
First we consider the systemic (pull) processes that favor Western values and ideologies.
Pull processes could be either global phenomena that are inevitable at the periphery, or
they can be chosen processes developed as a result of positive attitudes towards Western
values. Generally speaking, we found that there are two important global features that
cannot be avoided at the periphery, regardless of attitudes towards central values. The
ﬁrst is the global ﬁnancial crisis and other contextual factors (especially politics, history
and violence) that have had a great eﬀect on the profession worldwide (Kroknes, Jakob-
sen, and Grønning 2016), including journalism in Ecuador in particular, and Latin-American
journalism in general. The second set of phenomena consists of the eﬀects of technologi-
cal developments that have been initiated in the West, but which have since spread all
over the world. As we will later illustrate, the Internet in general and social media in par-
ticular have two inherent features: immediacy, and the dominance of visual information.
Thus, both at the center and the periphery, Internet penetration and the growing rel-
evance of social media platforms go hand in hand with the acceleration of news consump-
tion and news production (immediacy), and with the increasing importance of visual
content over traditional written communication.
Besides globally determined phenomena such as technological change and ﬁnancial
crises, we also found a development of pro-Western attitudes that are based on deliberate
professional decisions. One of the most important ﬁndings of our study is that Ecuadorian
journalists prefer the Western value of a free press over the more typical Latin-American
situation where there is signiﬁcant political pressure on media outlets. As many of our
interviewees emphasize, the many challenges facing journalism in Ecuador are related
to other dynamics that shape the political, economic and historical situation of the
country. Speciﬁcally, the struggle for freedom of the press, freedom of speech and the
key role of the state in setting the agenda, are all crucial in understanding how news-
workers make sense of their role in society. Similarly, although not speciﬁcally referred
to or broadly discussed by our participants, self-censorship, due to fear of reprisal or vio-
lence, is a determining factor that explained the mental processes and conﬁguration that
shape the ways in which reality is reported by journalists. Therefore, material conditions
and potential violence are diﬀerential factors in many countries in Latin America, although
much less intense in the Ecuadorian reality, as our respondents acknowledged.
It is also important to highlight the existence of an Andean imprint that inﬂuences how
Ecuadorian journalists interpret their professional practice. From a cultural point of view,
this is illustrated in the traditional indigenous orientation of Ecuadorian news-workers,
mainly in two domains: news content (as sources and main characters of the news
pieces); and storytelling (i.e., indigenous narrative). As many interviewees explained,
examples of both can be found in the “crónica”[feature article] genre, following the
school created by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the focus on local folkloric nationalism.
This is generally also observed in all of Latin America, although much more characteristi-
cally in the culturally-similar countries that make up the Andean Community of Nations
(Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia). This traditionalism leads Ecuadorian journalists to
prefer classical Latin-American journalistic genres, as well as local rhetorical style over
European rationalism and rigidity—as one of our respondents called it—is the most
important antisystemic feature of Ecuadorian journalism. This antisystemic attitude
could also be justiﬁed by the fact that our respondents indicated other, typically semiper-
ipheral Latin-American countries as role models in journalism, instead of celebrating clas-
sical European or other central journalistic practices as those of the BBC or CNN.
Secondly, the main eﬀects of social media on Ecuadorian journalism are the immediate
news production and the dissemination that they trigger and in relation to the transform-
ations in journalistic practice and professional proﬁles that they give rise to. First, our
ﬁndings address a crucial insight for understanding how journalists make sense of the
impact of social media in Ecuadorian journalism: a change of paradigm in which the
immediate nature of news becomes the norm in the new digital landscape. As was
already mentioned, this acceleration of news production and news consumption is the
direct consequence of the technology itself. Accordingly, it is a systemic and global
phenomenon that aﬀects every region—central and peripheral—using the technology.
Our ﬁndings emphasize how journalistic routines are transformed and news production
is enriched through the opinions of readers and interactions with them on social media.
Social media is a fundamental tool for structuring the news production process of most
news organizations, in which the micro elements (social contact, local information,
direct relationships, etc.) of news production determine in many cases the relevance
and breadth of news content. However, at the same time, the immediate nature of
news on social media and the lack of control in news veriﬁcation open the door for the
growing dissemination of fake news. The biggest challenge addressed by our respondents
in relation to the impact of social media on journalism is, therefore, associated with the
emergence of fake news and the obstacles it poses to creating an informed society.
In this regard, many of our respondents provided examples of the distorted eﬀects that
fake news triggers in the interpretation of public aﬀairs and politics. This impact was a fun-
damental and a shared concern among the majority of our interviewees, highlighting the
need to revive tradition journalistic practices associated with the production of veriﬁed,
reliable information regardless of the dissemination channel. Similarly, the immediate
orientation of most news organizations and the inclination to rapidly cover potential
breaking news present journalistic challenges that might tempt many new workers to
fall into sensationalism as well as compel many news organizations to focus more on
counting likes, readers and comments than on the quality of the content itself. Therefore,
while social media is arguably a crucial tool for structuring journalism in Ecuador, it can
also contribute to the dissemination of fake news and a new wave of sensationalism.
Thirdly, it is important to note the change in the professional proﬁle of Ecuadorian jour-
nalists due to the emergence of social media. When planning the interviews for this
research, little interest was expressed by media company executives. This indicates an
obvious lack of knowledge about the eﬀects of digital society on their organizations.
They defend the analogue system and do not have employees specialized in or even
capable of adapting to this new reality. On a more positive note, the average age of journal-
ists is low, making them digital natives, and they enjoy cutting-edge study curricula in uni-
versity faculties of journalism and/or communications in Ecuador. This makes the
adaptation process as well as the use of language and metalanguage a short-term
growth opportunity. According to several of the journalists interviewed, the use of social
media should be exploited in Ecuador in order to focus on the development of local and
impact journalism: direct content with sources and audiences should be seen as an
added value, with a hyper-segmentation of content anchored in cultural and current events.
JOURNALISM PRACTICE 13
As a fourth contribution, we provide a world-systemic explanation of how Ecuadorian
journalists react to technological and cultural globalization. In line with our considerations
above, we distinguish between systemic (pull) and antisystemic (push) eﬀects, and our ﬁrst
research question was directly related to the attitudes of Ecuadorian journalists towards
these pull and push eﬀects. Based on our empirical analysis, we found that, although
Ecuador is considered to be a peripheral country with an antisystemic polity, systemic pro-
cesses are more typical in Ecuadorian journalism than their antisystemic counterparts. Our
explanation of this fact is based on the recognition that news-workers are, both techno-
logically and economically, working in an increasingly global context. Peripheral journalists
have no choice when they have to adapt to global ﬁnancial crises and technical revolu-
tions like the development and the global spread of the Internet. Journalism today is
based on new technologies to such an extent that it cannot be insulated from their con-
sequences, the most important of which are immediacy, interactivity and the growing
importance of visual content. But besides systemic movements, we can also ﬁnd very
important antisystemic attitudes through which Ecuadorian journalists resist the central
impact and try to keep their autonomous professional culture. Ecuadorian journalists
are proud of their Latin-American tradition, their notable writer/journalists like Vargas
Llosa or Gabriel García Márquez, and when it comes to role models, they refer to other
Latin-American countries instead of to central (European or American) examples. More-
over, they prefer the Latin-American writing style and Latin-American genres. Finally,
they also prefer topics and themes with a local relevance over global issues, thus following
traditional discourses on folkloric nationalism.
Our second research question was related directly to the eﬀects of social media on
the balance of systemic and antisystemic attitudes in the case of Ecuadorian journalists.
We found that social media, as a technically determined phenomenon, deﬁned
how media sites are used by both journalists and audiences. This means that news pro-
duction and news consumption have become faster (immediacy), user-generated
content has become less reliable, and thus professional journalists have had to change
the focus of their role from gatekeepers to “information conﬁrmers”. Similarly, the
rapidly growing role of interactivity between journalists and audiences and the increas-
ingly important role that pictures play in news content are direct consequences of the
technical capability of the Internet. Thus, regardless of the geopolitical position or the
world-systemic attitude of a given world region, the ways in which social media sites
impact journalistic practices are rather similar, because they are the direct consequences
of the medium itself.
In summary, we can conclude that, while the spread of global technologies make it
harder and harder to launch antisystemic movements, they mostly aﬀect how journalists
use modern technologies. Meanwhile however, peripheral journalists are still able to main-
tain many indigenous features like style, rhetoric and the content of news. We can thus say
that technological innovations like social media sites cannot aﬀect professional practices
equally in all the regions of the world, thus the analysis of diﬀerent world regions is still
crucial in order to gain a clear picture of the world-system.
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