How Black Twitter and other social media communities interact with mainstream news

The issues and voices of people of color and women have attracted much attention from professional journalists over the past few years. Yet many such individuals have criticized journalists’ portrayals and coverage of issues that are important to them. In response, some participants have assumed the role of news creators and distributors, focusing on their communities’ particular concerns. Understanding these emerging social subcultures will allow more accurate portrayals of diverse communities and yield insights for better journalistic engagement in the digital age.

In 2017, Knight Foundation commissioned a study to understand how subcultures on social media, comprised of traditionally marginalized communities including Black Twitter, Feminist Twitter, and Asian-American Twitter, interact with reporters and the news. The goal was to create lessons for reporters on better covering and engaging with these communities, aligned with Knight’s journalism work that supports greater newsroom diversity.

Using a mix of computational analysis, qualitative review, and interviews, the researchers analyzed over 46 million tweets with community-related hashtags from 2015 to 2016. To date, this report is the largest review of Twitter conversations examining the relationship between media and these online sub-cultures.