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Social media increasingly important tools for journalists, but PR still reigns, says international digital journalism study

Journalists around the world increasingly are relying on social media like Facebook and Twitter to source and verify stories, according to the fourth annual international Digital Journalism Study, reported Oriella PR Network, which published the study.

The poll of 478 journalists from 15 countries -- including the United States and Brazil -- found that 40 percent used Twitter to source stories, and 35 percent used Facebook. That's up from 33 percent and 25 percent, respectively, last year.

Still, the majority of journalists still relied primarily on traditional means to source their stories, The Guardian pointed out: 62 percent said they used public relations representatives, and 59 percent cited corporate spokespeople. Further, only 4 percent said social media was the first place they went when sourcing a story.

Also of note is that 55 percent said their newspapers had a Twitter feed, 54 percent journalist-authored blogs, and 48 percent video.

The pressure to use social media and produce multi-media content also resulted in 45 percent of respondents saying they have to produce more content, and 34 percent said they work longer hours.

"Based on the study's data, it would seem that the popularity of online media is eclipsing that of offline media. For the first time since the study began, the proportion of respondents who agreed unequivocally that their 'offline' entity attracted the largest audience fell to just below 50 percent," said Oriella PR Network in a statement.

Tom Foremski of ZDNet pointed out that what is most striking about the study is turning the numbers "inside out": 53 percent of journalists who responded do not use Twitter to source stories, and 65 percent do no use Facebook. "It goes to show how far behind the majority of journalists are in using the many research and sourcing tools at their disposal," Foremski wrote. "It’s clear that newspapers and magazines, along with the rest of the media industry, still have a long way to go in their transition to digital business models."

This study follows the release of a guide with best practices for social media use from the American Society of News Editors -- a guide that was critiqued for being too timid when it came to incorporating social media into the newsroom.

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