How Indian journalists use social media

IN Books | 05/12/2014
The Hoot surveyed journalists to ascertain exactly how, and to what extent, they use social media in their daily professional lives.


The nature of newsgathering has undergone a sea change in India, as it has elsewhere, owing to social media. The lead for a story can often originate on Facebook or Twitter. One of the most striking findings from this study is that a majority of journalists use Facebook and Twitter as news sources. The aim of this survey was to see how journalists use these social media forums in their daily professional lives. Has social media changed the way journalists consume and produce news? How useful are Facebook and Twitter to journalists as a news source or for disseminating their own work?  How does English-language journalists’ use of social media vary from that of their Indian-language counterparts?

To understand these questions, we posted an online survey which 275 media professionals took. The number includes journalists across different languages and mediums -- print, digital, electronic -- and their approach to using social media for professional purposes.


This survey was conducted between November 4 and December 3, by posting the link to the survey on The Hoot’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well as by word of mouth. Of the 275 people who took the survey, the majority -- 239 -- were journalists and the remaining 36 were from related professions: PR and brand consultants, communication managers, content writers, journalism students, ex-journalists.

Are you a journalist?

 The overwhelming majority of journalists -- 88 percent -- who took the survey used the English language. But journalists who used Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Kannada, Odiya, Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Assamese and others also participated in it. It also had a few bilingual, and even a few trilingual, journalists who worked in English and one or more Indian languages.

Which language do you work in? 


 The highest number of journalists who participated in the survey, almost 71 percent, work for, or are associated with, the print media. The percentage figures for the digital and electronic media are 49 and 29 respectively. Some journalists, especially freelancers, were associated with more than one medium.

The type of medium you work for or are associated with:

 Journalists from a total of 32 newspapers and magazines across different languages took the survey; among the others were journalists from 10 TV channels, 17 websites, and three radio channels. The names of the organizations are listed below:

Newspapers & Magazines
TV Channels

India: Asian Age, Business Standard,  DNA, Deccan Chronicle, Divya Marathi, Daily Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran, Governance Now, Hardnews, The Caravan, The Economic Times,  The Hindustan Times, The New Indian Express, The Hindu, The Hindu Business Line, The Telegraph, The Times of India, The Thumb Print,  The Sunday Guardian, The Indian Express, The Statesman, The Northeast Today, Mid-Day, Madhyamam, Mathrubhumi, Prabhat Khabar, Sanmarg, Metro India, Hindustan Samachar, WCRC Leaders Asia Magazine

Abroad: The Times of Oman

CNN-IBN, Doordarshan, ETV News Kannada, News7 Tamil, Naxatra, OTV (Odisha Television), Rajya Sabha Television, Tarang, Times Now, Zee News, Cox and Kings, Citizen Matters,  DailyO, Firstpost, India Legal,,,, Newslaundry, Sun Post,, Yahoo!,, The Hoot,, Quartz

Abroad: DW, Radio France, Radio Australia

In addition to the above, email interviews were carried out with the following editors of Hindi media outlets: Ravish Kumar, NDTV, Pratap Somvanshi, Hindustan, and Dilip C. Mandal, former editor of India Today’s Hindi edition. Their comments have been incorporated into the qualitative feedback.


Some of the major findings from the survey are:

a) Among the journalists who use social media professionally, the highest percentage of them - 69 (or 190 out of 275) for Twitter and 61 (169 out of 275) for Facebook - use the two forums as a news source, including finding leads for their stories.

b) The percentage of journalists who use social media to disseminate their work is also high: 48 per cent for both Twitter and Facebook.

c) The percentage of journalists who use social media to share other links is 55 for Facebook and 49 for Twitter.

d) More journalists use Twitter to follow other people (newsmakers or celebrities) than they do Facebook; in fact following others is the second most common activity that journalists use Twitter for: the percentage figures are 62 and 43 for Twitter and Facebook respectively. 

Are you active on Facebook or Twitter?

A large number of people, 158 out of 275 (57 percent) are active on both Facebook and Twitter. 28 percent are active only on Facebook, while 11 percent are active only on Twitter. Only 10 people -- four percent -- said they are not active on either of the two forums.

Which one do you use more frequently for professional purposes?

When it comes to using social media professionally, journalists use Twitter more frequently (38 percent) as compared to Facebook (31 percent). Almost one-fourth journalists said they use both the forums professionally; 8 percent said they use neither of the two forums.

Which language do you post/tweet in?

Almost 94 percent of the people who took the survey said they tweeted/posted in English: this included English, as well as Indian-language journalists. Most bilingual journalists (or the ones working in more than two languages) said they tweeted/posted in English and an Indian language. Only four journalists said they tweeted/posted exclusively in an Indian language.

What professional purposes do you use Facebook for?

As mentioned before, among the journalists who use social media professionally, most use it as a news source.  The chart below explains how Facebook is used: 169 (61 percent) use it as a news source; almost half also use Facebook to disseminate their own work as well as to share other links that they like or think important. About 43 percent of journalists use Facebook to follow newsmakers and celebrities.

What professional purposes do you use Twitter for?

Twitter, on the other hand, is the most popular social media forum to source news: 69 percent of journalists use it for that purpose; at 62 percent, the second most frequent category on Twitter is to follow others; on Twitter too, like Facebook, almost half of the surveyed people said they used the forum to disseminate their own work as well as to share other links that they liked or thought important.

Some people who took the survey also made interesting comments about the various professional uses of social media. Here is what they had to say. (Some journalists gave their names and the name of their organisation, others did not):

Use of social media as a news source: 

Sowmya Aji, the Economic Times: Twitter’s use is “basically to look for trends, news leads. Don't use it otherwise.”

Amoga Laxmi S, Metro India: Facebook is a “platform for knowing current happenings that entice a journalist or reporter go in depth to [find] facts.”

A Hindi journalist: Facebook and Twitter make for good “content providers”.

A print journalist: “Facebook is just a lead...I use the information only after rechecking its authenticity.”

A print journalist: Facebook “could be more effective than Linkedin at times but not always when it comes to reaching out because [if you send] a mail [it] goes to 'Others' folder. Also, real identity makes it difficult to pursue professional leads.”

G N Mohan, ETV News Kannada: Facebook gives “an analytical outlook through its pages and links. It is in many ways helpful for me to get story ideas too. I depend mainly on Facebook to get a broad understanding of the current affairs.”

Ravish Kumar, NDTV (Hindi): “For media houses, social media is less of a news source, it is more just another platform to make their presence felt.  Many a times you get news through it, but you have to verify it through your sources.”

Pratap Somvanshi, executive editor, Hindustan: “We use it [social media] for three purposes: we get story leads and use that information to create a big story. We use pictures from social media for our print publication. If we are doing a story on cyber fraud then we need some expert to cover all aspects about that. LinkedIn help us find the cyber expert. These facilities were not available for print media before the social media revolution. We get so many new story ideas from these virtual platforms.”

Use of social media to disseminate/publicize personal work:

A journalist from the New Indian Express: social media is both “a platform for newsy information, and for sharing my own stories. Also to get a pulse of the society on topical issues.”

Chaitraly Deshmukh, correspondent, Mid-Day: On Twitter “I share my own stories, [and other] information and also gain information about the new trends and issues discussed on Twitter in 140 characters.”

A print journalist: On Facebook, “sharing own story links is a strict no-no”.

Inderjit Badhwar, India Legal and Views On News: Twitter is a “great outlet for news and views the establishment is afraid to publish. Also [it has] maximum impact with exposes and scoops.”

Ravish Kumar, NDTV (Hindi): “I don’t advertise my show on Twitter; have done that on some occasions but I don’t like it; I find advertising one’s show on Twitter bizarre. I find things like ‘I asked this, the prime minister responded this’ quite vulgar. It’s sad to see journalists and anchors doing this the entire day. I get terribly bored with the incessant ‘Watch my show! This is exclusive, that is exclusive’ thing.”

Pratap Somvanshi, executive editor, Hindustan: “I share my stories’ links and TV show timings” on social media.

The use of social media for sharing other links:

Bishakha De Sarkar, the Telegraph: Facebook is a tool “to spread awareness about issues among young members of my team.  Because it’s a medium that they are familiar with, they are quick to respond to the links that I post especially for them.”

Ravish Kumar, NDTV (Hindi): “On many occasions I have used Twitter to share the news, and felt good about it. I also like to interact with people who I think are like-minded. I like responding to people who write on my timeline. The fact that you don’t know someone, but are still trying to figure out their views, is challenging and pleasurable. Sometimes these conversations make you look at things differently.”

(Continued on page two...)

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