Social media is being used more and more in newsrooms as a tool for newsgathering and verification, according to a new study.

The fourth annual Digital Journalism Study, published by the Oriella PR network, polled 478 journalists from 15 countries and found that 47 per cent of them used Twitter as a source, up from just 33 per cent last year.

The use of Facebook as a source went up to 35 per cent this year from 25 per cent in 2010.

The report also suggests an increasing number of journalists are turning to social media for verification, with a third using Twitter and a quarter Facebook.

Only 4 per cent of respondents cited Twitter, Facebook or blogs as their first port of call when researching a news story however, with just over 20 per cent saying they turned to corporate spokespeople and just over 21 per cent citing the press release in-tray.

And despite the increasing reliance on social media, PR remains the dominant source for news stories, with 61 per cent citing the use of agencies in sourcing leads.

This year's report also reflects the increasing popularity of online media, with the proportion of respondents who claimed their offline print or broadcast outlet had the biggest audience fell to 50 percent for the first time.

The report suggests an increase in the use of Twitter for distributing content, as well as a greater number of journalist-authored blogs and more online video.

Kate Day, social media and engagement editor for Telegraph Media Group, said: "There is no doubt that social media has become a vital tool for journalists of all types – as a source of information; as a way of getting their stories out there; and as a way of building digital audiences."

Giles Fraser, co-head of the Oriella PR Network said the study "demonstrates the fast-growing acceptance of social media in the newsrooms.

"Whereas in previous years, media outlets viewed social media as an experimental platform, they now view it as a bona fide source."

The use social media for newsgathering and verification is on the agenda at Journalism.co.uk's news:rewired conference next week, as is social media strategy for publishers. See the full agenda here.

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