660   Individual paper

Comparing Journalistic and Social Media Uptake of Articles Published by The Conversation Africa

Author: Lars Guenther
University of Hamburg, Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies, Germany

While science journalism is in crisis in many countries (e.g., Guenther, 2019) and scientists are increasingly called to make their work publicly visible (e.g., Rödder, 2012; Joubert, 2018), in new media environments (Brossard, 2013) alternative sources for informing the public on scientific topics have become popular (e.g., Brumfiel, 2009). Among them is The Conversation with its Africa Edition The Conversation Africa (TCA): a novel, open-access online platform for science news written by scientists, and edited by journalists. TCA’s content is free-to-republish by media outlets under a Creative Commons Agreement. Thus, TCA can be situated in the intersection between scientific and journalistic communication, acting as gatekeeper (Fahy & Nisbet, 2011; Shoemaker & Vos, 2009) and agenda setter (McCombs & Shaw, 1972) for science news. Since researchers have been asked to put more effort into studying alternative online sources of scientific information, the present study delivers insights into TCA’s nature as well as journalistic and social media uptake of its content in order to compare TCA’s impact on traditional journalism compared to social media engagement.

TCA provided access to metrics for all articles published since its launch in May 2015 until May 2020 (N = 5392). The number of publications per month was steady over time. In total, those articles were written by 3589 authors, with single-authored articles (n = 4390; 81%) and South African authorship (n = 3897; 56%) dominating. Using automated clustering and visualization techniques, journalistic uptake (e.g., republishing by other media outlets) was more frequent for TCA articles published on political topics; social media uptake (e.g., Facebook and Twitter shares) was particularly high for articles on education and academia, as well as wildlife and ecology. Hence, attention for TCA articles as an alternative online source of information about science varies regarding media (traditional journalism or social media) and topics concerned.

Co-author: Marina Joubert
Stellenbosch University, Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology, South Africa

Co-author: Jonathan Dudek
Leiden University, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Netherlands

Co-author: Daniela Mahl
University of Hamburg, Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies, Germany

Co-author: Rodrigo Costas
Leiden University, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Netherlands

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