Publication Details

Dickins, M., Thomas, S. L. & Holland, K. (2010). Australian media's use of facebook postings to report events of national interest. In F. Papandrea & M. Armstrong (Eds.), Record of the Communications and Policy Research Forum (pp. 72-89). Australia: Network Insight Pty Ltd.


Online social networking sites such as Facebook have grown exponentially in recent times, yet little research has examined how the mainstream news media use the information available on these sites. This study explores how the Australian media used the social networking site Facebook in reporting three different news events: the disappearance of Australian backpacker Britt Lapthorne; the death of 4-year-old Darcey Freeman; and the devastating 'Black Saturday' Victorian bushfires. Sixty-four articles from Australian newspapers were identified pertaining to these three case studies within a seven month period from August 2008 to February 2009. An inductive thematic approach was used to identify the way in which information from Facebook was utilised by journalists within these news stories. Three main methods of utilising information from Facebook were established: the reporting of group activity to gather information, discuss developments, and gauge general public sentiment; the use of profiles to report the lives of newsworthy individuals via their postings; and responses via Facebook groups and profiles of the specific reaction of families, friends and the general public to an event. The rise of social networking presents new challenges for journalists in relation to how they use information ethically and responsibly, and the privacy implications associated with media reporting of postings on social networking sites are discussed.