Messner, Marcus, & Garrison, Bruce (2011). Study shows some blogs affect traditional news media agenda. Newspaper Research Journal, 32(3), 112-126.


This study explored the source interaction between elite traditional news media and political filter blogs during a two-month period and found that while traditional news media frequently cite blogs in their coverage, the source attributions to the blogs are vague. Blogs on the other hand are more selective of their sources based on their political leaning. The findings raise questions about changes in the standard journalistic research and attribution procedures as well as about access points for public relations practitioners for their interaction with new media formats.  


Quantitative content analyses were conducted to study the use of blogs as sources in 10 elite newspapers and broadcast media  (New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, CNN, Fox News, ABC News, CBS News, and NBC News) and the use of traditional news media as sources in 10 political filter blogs (DailyKos, Talking Points Memo, Eschaton, Crooks and Liars, Think Progress, Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs, Powerline, and Captain’s Quarters) over a two-month period during the 2006 U.S. Congressional Midterm Elections. A total of 2,102 blog references in newspaper articles and broadcast news transcripts as well as 4,794 traditional news media sources in blogs were analyzed.

Key Findings

1)    Traditional news media in the sample used blogs 10.9 times per day as a source during the two-month election period, 3.9 times in the context of the election. The filter blogs used traditional news media on average 78.6 times per day and 38.6 times in the election context. The Washington Post and CNN were the most frequently cited sources by blogs while there were no dominating blog sources in traditional news media.

2)    Analyses of the blog source used in the context of the elections showed that many source uses by traditional news media did not specify which source was cited. A total of 44.7% of the blog source uses did not name a certain blog, but cited blogs in general or the blogosphere instead.

3)    While traditional news media predominantly used blogs as sources stating opinions (60.4%), filter blogs used traditional news media more often as sources presenting facts (76%).

4)    Liberal filter blogs were much more likely to use traditional news media sources than conservative ones. Liberal blogs were also more likely to cite the traditional news media in the sample, while conservative blogs cited more often other traditional news media with a conservative leaning, such as National Review, Washington Times and Fox News.

Implications for Practice

The findings of this study show that traditional news media heavily influence the agenda of blogs by being their dominant sources. On the other hand, blogs have also gained a growing influence on the agenda of traditional news media. Blogs are seen as providers of unfiltered information and they have developed a collective influence that cannot be ignored by traditional news media journalists and public relations practitioners.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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