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A primary definer online: the construction and propagation of a think tank’s authority on social media

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journal contribution
posted on 15.11.2017, 13:57 by Nick Anstead, Andrew ChadwickAndrew Chadwick
Who has power in the construction of economic news in the United Kingdom? Are social media reshaping how this power is enabled? We examine the public Twitter interactions between journalists, political elites and, what is arguably the United Kingdom’s most important think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), during the 2015 UK general election campaign. Combining human-coded content analysis and network analysis of Twitter discourse about the IFS during a 38-day period, we explain how and why the authority of this think tank is being translated to social media. We develop a new, social media theory of ‘primary definers’ and show how the political authority on which such roles rest is co-constructed and propagated by professional journalists and political elites. Central to this process is a behaviour we conceptualize and measure: authority signalling. Our findings call into question some of the more sanguine generalizations about social media’s contribution to pluralist democracy. Given the dominance of public service broadcasters in the processes we identify, we argue that, despite the growth of social media, there can be surprising limits on the extent to which contemporary media systems help citizens gain information about the assumptions underlying economic policy.

History

School

  • Social Sciences and Humanities

Department

  • Communication and Media

Published in

Media, Culture & Society

Volume

40

Issue

2

Pages

246 - 266

Citation

ANSTEAD, N. and CHADWICK, A., 2018. A primary definer online: the construction and propagation of a think tank’s authority on social media. Media, Culture & Society, 40(2), pp. 246-266.

Publisher

Sage © The Author(s)

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Acceptance date

25/02/2017

Publication date

2017-05-16

Notes

This article was published in the journal Media, Culture & Society [SAGE © the Authors] and the definitive version is available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443717707341

ISSN

0163-4437

eISSN

1460-3675

Language

en