Non-elitist truth? The epistemologies of Italian journalists in the hybrid media system

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Social Media+Society (@SocialMedia_Soc) / XEpistemology in journalism is the criterion of validity that enables journalists to distinguish the false from the true. Questioning how journalists depict reality is important especially in an age of economic and technological uncertainty. A new group of media actors involved in the news cycles is increasingly able to “hack the attention economy”; non-elite actors by the algorithmic logics of platforms tend to be increasingly regarded as influential (if not authoritative) in journalists’ decisions to transform facts into news. This study explores how in the various phases of newsmaking (i.e., discovering, gathering, spreading, and verifying news) non-elite actors are shaping journalists’ everyday epistemology in the contemporary Italian hybrid media system. This study draws on an analysis of 147 semi-structured interviews conducted with Italian professional journalists from 2008 to 2020. The results of the analysis confirmed the most conventional view about Italian journalism, that is, that journalists present knowledge essentially by using elite actors’ subjective reconstructions of reality. The integration of non-elite sources in the various stages of news production is due to an attitude of journalists aimed not so much at increasing pluralism as at producing news by providing evidence. The low level of journalists’ reflexivity in the use of web platforms, while involving some non-elite actors, appears to favor platforms themselves and their requisites.

Splendore, S., & Iannelli, L. (2022). Non-Elitist Truth? The Epistemologies of Italian Journalists in the Hybrid Media System. Social Media + Society8(3).