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Black Twitter has become a social media movement that allows African Americans to mobilize and discuss important issues, and it is also having greater influence with mainstream media outlets, a new study revealed.

Many outlets are paying close attention to the trending conversations among African Americans, feminists and Asian Americans that gain steam on Twitter, said a report commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and published on February 27. These outlets, including CNN, The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, are gathering news and story ideas from these Twitter groups.

Yes, Black Twitter matters. But how do these three subcultures feel about contributing to the news cycle?

Black Twitter, Feminist Twitter and Asian-American Twitter often give voice to issues that mainstream media ignores, said a key finding in the report. It is the largest study ever conducted of interactions between the news media and these online groups. Authors analyzed 46 million tweets with community-related hashtags from 2015-16 to put together the report.

Community members also have an overall low level of trust of the media: A favorability analysis of 23 major news outlets revealed that participants were twice as likely to express a negative, not positive, view of a news outlet. Members also disapprove of how the media frames certain issues and may choose to get their news from Twitter, as opposed to a publication. They are also concerned about story mining or when journalists embed their tweets into stories.

What is needed, the report said, are recommendations, approaches and solutions on how journalists can better connect to these Twitter subcultures.

“A strong future for journalism is dependent on accurate reporting that reflects the stories and concerns of all of our communities,” LaSharah Bunting, of the Knight Foundation director for journalism, said in a press release. “The report offers a window into how some of these communities interact with the news on their own terms, opening an opportunity for journalists to connect with their audiences in new and different ways.”

The Knight Foundation will hold a Twitter chat to talk about improving the relationship of journalists to these online communities on March 8 at 12 noon EST.


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