Academics & Research

Grant propels journalism research


In an industry that is transforming from paper to Web pages, articles to posts and circulation records to page views, one professor is researching how social media is playing a part in the reporting process.

“The research looks at the way newspaper reporters are using social media,” said Arthur Santana, assistant professor for the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication.

“It’s going to be a national survey of reporters at 250 newspapers across the country, about a dozen reporters from each newspaper.”

Santana received $6,000 from UH under the New Faculty Research grant for his project, “Engaging a New Channel of Information: Reporters’ Use of Social Media.” The project will delve into how journalists are using social media as part of their reporting practices, along with their use of it in search for sources, according to a UH press release.

The New Faculty Research Program has been developed to aid faculty who have been at the University for less than three years and who wish to initiate research for their first time but haven’t had the previous professional funding, according to the grant’s guidelines.

The grants are rewarded in amounts up to $6,000 and support scholarly efforts and research that are considered an integral part of the University’s instructional program.

Santana was a reporter and an editor in San Antonio, Seattle and Washington D.C., before teaching. He said he has noticed the increase use of social media within the field.

“A lot of my Facebook friends are still working journalists, and what I’ve seen is that social media has become woven into their work routine. I can see how reporters are using social media more and more,” Santana said.

“They are more than just sharing their stories or posting links to their stories; they are seeking tips and ideas and sources to help with their reporting.”

The survey Santana will conduct will be multiple choice and will mostly cover the journalist’s use of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedln and Storify in their work, Santana said. He said he intends to work the research in with the course he is teaching this semester: News and Social Media.

“I think it’s going to tie in nicely. The course, News and Social Media, will incorporate a lot of the things I learn in my research,” Santana said.

“I suspect that reporters will say that social media has become a new tool for them to stay connected with the public.”

Santana got the approval for his research in January, and after passing through a board for approval, plans to take six weeks to complete it.

“When reporters have a presence on a social media site, not only are they able to keep in touch with their readers, but readers are able to contact them much easier, too. It becomes a two-way street, which is really the best way of communicating,” he said.

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