Journalists reveal declining role in charity reporting as social media takes over

Journalists believe their role in promoting charity messages and campaigns is declining as social media overtakes traditional methods, a recent survey has suggested.

Only one in three (34%) journalists think they will play a more important role in helping charities get their messaging out in five years' time, whilst one in five believe they will play a less important role, a rise from the 15% who believed the same thing in 2017.

The survey, by NFP Synergy found social media is at the crux of the issue.

It revealed that with the average person spending 2.5 hours per day on social media, charities have used the platforms as a campaigning tool, a method of communicating with supporters and donors and a way of spreading message to engage large audiences.

One respondent said: “Social media has democratised the sharing of information. People are no longer solely reliant on journalism to receive news and hear about campaigns, a trend that will only increase in years to come.”

However, the survey also noted that whilst charities may be able to get their message out to thousands of people using social media, many of them are “already warm to their cause”.

Traditional forms of media enable a reach to a much broader audience, some journalists suggested.

“Journalists retain an important role as an invaluable "third party" in ensuring a charity message is conveyed across all media platforms, and that that message is promoted in a very effective way. Yes, charities can do their own social media, but media organisations still retain huge scope. Captain Tom succeeded because the local media and then global media got behind him - and the world's public followed,” said a journalist from The Telegraph.

A part to play

The journalists surveyed also said that the wider coverage and exposure journalists can give to charities could be key to the post-pandemic recovery of the sector.

With fundraising figures down due to the effects of Covid-19, journalists say that the traditional reach of journalism could stimulate important conversations at a national and local level could be fundamental in shaping the post-pandemic recovery.

“In the post-Covid world there will be a reset, of the economy, the way we work, our treatment of vulnerable people. Charities are likely to play an increasing role in society and for that they will need journalists to get their message across,” said a respondent from The People/Sunday Mirror.

The rise of fake news and misinformation has also given more credence to traditional media as they are seen as more trusted sources.

“Social media has no doubt revolutionised how we communicate and consume information. For charities, a social media presence is now a fundamental means of mobilising support and engaging with the public.

“However, the question of whether or not it can actually eclipse journalism is a separate matter. Not only is there a sense among journalists that they retain a unique ability to craft stories and reach wider audiences, but equally a strong suggestion that there could be a growing return to more established voices as the public becomes increasingly aware of the links between disinformation and social media,” the survey concluded.

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