So says Jayeon Lee, an assistant professor of journalism at Lehigh University. Well. It’s a little more complicated than that, but journalists and Facebook are the key components of Lee’s new study titled, “The Double-Edged Sword: The Effects of Journalists’ Social Media Activities on Audience Perceptions of Journalists and Their News Products” as published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communications.
I have not read the full study, but I did read Natalie Jomini Stroud’s synopsis for the American Press Institute.
The research basically consisted of this. Lee created four Facebook profiles for a fictional journalist. The first was just links to two news articles. Comments appeared underneath and that was it. In the second, the “journalist” included a personal anecdote about each of the stories. In the third, the fictional journalist responded to each commenter, tagging each on Facebook. In the last profile, the journalist shared a personal tidbit and commented on each comment.
What did we learn? That readers in the study thought more of the journalist as a person if he self-disclosed some aspect of his life, but less of him as a professional if he commented on all those comments.
Huh. So what does that mean? …
As Stroud points out, it could be that readers were uncomfortable with the fact that the journalist commented on each comment or some other bias was at play. We probably need to know about whether it matters if the journalist is posting on his personal or professional page, what sorts of comments were viewed negatively, etc. We need more information.
My guess? A little self-disclosure goes a long way and can help humanize you in the eyes of your readers. I’m betting that measured, thoughtful, regular (but not obsessive) correspondence with readers is a welcome development in the digital age.
Consider it food for thought. What do you think of journalists who engage online?