Authors Name: 
Carolina Are
City University, London
Media & Journalism
Award winner

Journalists’ Twitter coverage of the death of Margaret Thatcher

As Twitter gains prominence as a tool for gathering and disseminating news, the core journalistic value of impartiality is being challenged (Singer, 2011:843). Through social networks, journalists find themselves choosing between acting as an ordinary user or as a journalist with connections to a newspaper or broadcast network.

This paper examines how the most followed journalists in the United Kingdom used Twitter to report on the death of Margaret Thatcher, one of the country’s most controversial politicians (BBC, nd). 

Considering the common Anglo-American journalistic practices and the British Broadcasting Corporation’s editorial guidelines as an example of journalistic ethics, this paper takes a first step in looking at how tweets sent by the United Kingdom’s most influential journalists in the two weeks comprising Margaret Thatcher’s death and funeral kept to widely understood editorial guidelines (BBC, nd) .

While a high amount of research has been conducted on changing journalistic values on Twitter in the past four years (Lasorsa, 2012; Lasorsa et al, 2012; Small, 2011; Bruns and Burgess, 2011; Artwick, 2013), there seems to be little work on the journalistic use of the social network in connection with events that are not breaking news.

As journalists increasingly using Twitter (Lasorsa et al, 2012) it is becoming important to understand whether the shift in journalists’ practices brought by the use of this social network is affecting the quality and credibility of the content they produce. 

Margaret Thatcher was “a global icon”, “one of the towering figures of the political right” (BBC,2013) and a “divisive figure” (Moore, 2013). 

This paper chose to focus on her death in an attempt to determine how journalists’ behaviour on Twitter is changing the reporting of non-breaking news events on social networks.