Blogs and social media sites are now "well-used sources" for story research by journalists, a US survey claims.

According to study of 371 US journalists and editors by Cision and the Masters Degree Programme in Strategic Public Relations at George Washington University, 89 per cent of respondents said they turn to blogs, 65 per cent to social networks and 55 per cent to microblogging sites as part of their research.

Seventy two per cent of newspaper and online journalists use social networking sites for significant online research, in comparison with 58 per cent of those at magazines, while online-only journalists make the most use of Twitter, the survey suggests.

The results of the study suggest that mainstream media has reached "a tipping point" when it comes to using social media for research and reporting, says Heidi Sullivan, vice president of research for Cision North America, in a press release.

"However, it's also clear that while social media is supplementing the research done by journalists, it is not replacing editors' and reporters' reliance on primary sources, fact-checking and other traditional best practices in journalism," says Sullivan.

News delivered by social media was seen as slightly less or much less reliable than that distributed by 'traditional' media outlets by 84 per cent of respondents. This percentage was higher amongst newspaper and magazine journalists and lower amongst the web journalists studied.

"Lack of fact-checking, verification or reporting standards" was cited by 49 per cent of those survey as the number one reason for questioning the reliability of news via social sites.

But social media research has not replaced the role of PR professionals in providing access to sources and experts for interview, the study suggested.

Editors and reporters surveyed said they depend on PR professionals for "interviews and access to sources and experts" (44 per cent), "answers to questions and targeted information" (23 per cent), and "perspective, information in context, and background information" (17 per cent).

"The least experienced journalists use information from press releases and PR professionals more now than five years ago to write their stories, and more so than their more experienced counterparts," says the report.

The survey, which also looked at how journalists' levels of experience affected their use of social media to research, report and track news, can be downloaded at this link.

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