Journalist for ten years, Chris Stokel-Walker has established himself in recent years as a specialist in social networks and new ways of communication. Originally from Newcastle, England, he graduated from Newcastle University. During his studies, he already led a communication project by creating an advertising campaign. It was not only a first experience, but also a chance to make connections with local and national media in the Northeast of England. Initially drawn to the communication and advertising sector, he began his career as a freelance copywriter and PR manager. He then broadened his skills by working for a music festival, a travel guide and finally became a consultant for various European companies and start-ups.
From freelance journalist to digital specialist
In 2012, he starts a new career: journalist. With the knowledge he has gained over the years, Chris Stokel-Walker started freelancing. A successful venture as he freelances for The Times, The Sunday Times, The Economist, Bloomberg, WIRED UK, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, BBC News, BuzzFeed News. He treats news but also produce specialized articles, especially in one area: digital culture. As such, he is also involved in radio and television programs. He has appeared on « The Media Show » on BBC Radio 4, Times Radio, LBC and ABC radio in the US. He has also tried his hand at presenting with the Radio 4 documentary « Everyone’s A Star ». On television, he is a frequent commentator for BBC News, Sky News and TRT World. At the same time, he wrote two books, which confirmed his status as an expert on the digital world. In 2019, he tells in Youtubers (Cantubery Press), how this platform has surpassed or at least equaled television in its cultural impact, creating in fact after a generation of children of TV, that of the children of Youtube. In Tiktok Boom (Cantubery Press) in 2021, Chris Stokel-Walker explains this time a newcomer of the digital scene: Tiktok.
TikTok is not the enemy
More precisely, Tiktok Boom proposes an enlightenment on what this social network is. Newly arrived on the scene and redefining the rules, we must learn to know this phenomenon. Since it is a Chinese company that competes with the American Silicon Valley, this social network is also a surprising and unique geopolitical object. Chris Stoker-Walker also shows that this application could give a new direction to the future ones. Whether in terms of formats (those short videos that can be scrolled endlessly) or privacy policies, Tiktok allows us to debate the future of technology companies. Chris Stoker-Walker, himself a fan of the application, uses it to promote his activities, but also to pass on information. #NPDJ
Written by: Pauline Boudier
Nic Newman is a British journalist and a senior research associate at Oxford University and Reuters Institute for the study of Journalism.
He is specialized in digital strategy ang has a solid experience within this field.
For instance, he helped creating the BBC News’ website back in 1997. At that time Nic Newman was at the head of international coverage. As part of the BBC, he has also been Head of Product Development from 2001 to 2007, implementing podcasts and blogs. He then led digital teams from 2007 to 2010, shaping the social media strategy and developing websites for BBC News, Sport, Weather and Local.
Nic Newman ‘s research deal specifically with questions of polarization, the youth and media, monetization of the news. He also focuses on attention on social media platforms and the way technology does affect the practice of journalism.
Nic Newman is the author of an annual “digital news report” giving the main media and technology trends, helping journalists adapt to this new digital era. 246 professionals from the media have been interrogated to produce the 2022 report.
The study confirms the choice made by many editorial boards to invest more on creating podcasts as well as content specifically made for the platforms mostly used by the youth: Tik Tok and Instagram. As written in the report “short-form video has been revitalized by the creativity and dynamic growth of TikTok.” The platform reaches more than a billion people mainly under 35. However, Nic Newman pinpoints Tik Tok can stay a complicated platform to navigate for journalists these days: more news circulating on Tik Tok is also likely to mean more fake news and misinformation.
Concerning the business model, more than ¾ of survey respondents bet on digital subscriptions as a main source of income, ahead of ads. About half of them is worried it could change the category of readers they have though, attracting mainly subscribers from richer and more educated backgrounds.
Francesco Zaffarano has based his career as a journalist on the development of media in various social networks, which has earned him many recommendations on LinkedIn. This Italian journalist first started studying philosophy in Milan where he obtained a bachelor’s degree, before moving to London, where he continued his studies with a master’s degree in Interactive Journalism at the City, University of London. He completed this training with qualifications related to the digital world. At the European Journalism Center (EJC), in 2014, he took the module « Doing Journalism with Data: First Steps, Skills and Tools » and in 2018 « Building Bots for Journalism », at the University of Austin, Texas (USA).
A career dedicated to social networks
He begins his career as an assistant video producer for a documentary of the media VICE, broadcast on the Italian platform. In September 2014, he joined the Turin daily La Stampa, where he freelances articles mainly on technological and internet-related topics. He also writes fact checking articles. He is then assigned to the Social Network department where he is responsible for the newspaper’s social network edition. He took over these functions for various media and companies, among them The Economist or The Telegraph. He developed the Instagram strategies of these two newspapers, in the first using the stories, in the second on the entire application. For the Italian newspapers la Repubblica and L’Espresso, he produces long interactive articles on the web. Finally, he is leading the production of a video series on Facebook for Repubblica TV.
How small newsrooms and media startups are using TikTok ?
In 2020, he was appointed editor-in-chief of Will Media, this time a totally web-based media and not just a web version of a print media. This Italian media is particularly interesting because it has decided to distribute its content on all possible platforms. It is no longer the media as a format that conveys information, but the content that gathers. Each format is adapted and adaptable to the platform but the content, the signature remains more or less the same. For example, Will Media’s Tiktok account has 247,400 subscribers and presents current events with angles that are not afraid to go into politics. At the moment, it is about the political stakes of the Football World Cup in Qatar. Today, Francesco Zaffaranno has started a new adventure: he is the editor of the audiences at Devex. This platform connects and informs professionals on topics with stakes such as health or the environment. He also lists all the media that have an account on TikTok « to create a directory and understand how we can use the platform for journalism ». It currently lists 372 of them.
Valeria Shashenok, a 21-year-old Ukrainian from Chernihiv has 1.3 million followers on Tik Tok. The social network has become her digital diary in which she documents the war in Ukraine and recounts her daily life in a light and ironic tone.
Eleven days after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Valeria Shashenok posted a Tik Tok video with the words: « Everybody’s watching her, but she’s looking at the war in Ukraine ». « She » is Valeria, a 21-year-old photographer living in Chernihiv, a town in northern Ukraine about 60 km from the Belarusian border. To illustrate the armed conflict, the young Ukrainian uses images of abandoned streets and ruined buildings with blown-out windows in her video. This is her daily life and she regularly posts it on the social network.
This open window on the reality of war in Ukraine is made easier to watch thanks to the Tik Tok format. The videos posted on the platform are meant to be fun. Popular and trendy music (choreographies or music that is a viral success on the social network) make the content fun. Valeria uses them to support her ironic and offbeat tone. In one video, she takes us on a tour of her underground bunker and greets us with the words: « Welcome to my 5 stars hotel ». She compares a basin of water to a Jacuzzi, her toilet to a reading corner, and the food cooked by her mother, a cooker, to Michelin-worthy dishes.
This sense of self-deprecation also illustrates the resilience and pragmatism of this photographer. She explained to BFM TV in early March: « A lot of people are crying here. If I cry too, what will it change? Nothing. » While Valeria Shashenok now uses Tik Tok as an information tool, before the war in Ukraine began, she used it more to post « life style » content. Her posts averaged tens of thousands of views. By documenting her life under the bombs and using English subtitles, Valeria regularly approaches one million viewers. Her most viewed Tik Tok has reached 51.3 million.
This success does not make her forget that the war is still going on. “People should cherish freedom, she told CNN. It’s the most important thing we have. Every day I live with the hope that tomorrow the war will end… but everything gets worse”. But that doesn’t stop her from having plans. If the war ends, Valeria wants to study in the United States to become a journalist.
Written by: Romain Bitot
Sophia Smith Galer
Sophia Smith Galer is a multi-award-winning reporter, author and TikTok creator based in London, making content for over 450 000 followers around the world. Her videos have been seen over 130 million times.
Sophia began her career at the BBC, working as a social media producer and then religion reporter, where she reported on the complexities of contemporary faith across the BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4 and BBC World News.
Her pioneering use of TikTok as a newsgathering and publishing tool has won her recognition in the industry as a journalism innovator, winning ‘Innovation of the Year’ at the British Journalism Awards as well as a spot on this year’s Forbes 30 under 30 list. She has just been named as one of Vogue’s 25 Most Influential Women in Britain list in 2022.
She is now a Senior News Reporter at VICE World News covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa and is the author of Losing It: Sex Education for the 21st Century, published this year by Harper Collins. She focuses on sexual and reproductive health rights, gender violence and the environment.
Garance Pardigon graduated from ESJ Lille in 2014, specialising in television, and joined TF1 immediately afterwards in the Metz (Moselle) office. After three years of correspondence in the Grand-Est Region, she joined the national editorial team in Paris, first in the consumer section until 2019 and then in the environment section.
The covid-19 pandemic from March 2020 marks a turning point in her career and in her journalistic practice. She began by answering viewers’ questions every evening on Gilles Bouleau’s 20H news programme. She participates in the development of a QR Code to facilitate the exchange with the public and allow them to record and send their question in video format.
At the same time, Garance Pardigon launched herself on TikTok and laughed about it: « I’m having my thirties crisis there! » A professional experience that was nonetheless constructive, initially on her own, before she spoke to the editorial staff of TF1 and was offered hosting duties by the channel, notably for live broadcasts on TikTok during the 2022 french presidential election. An exercise that she enjoys, for her « social networks allow us to shake up the codes » not only in the treatment of information and the viewpoint brought, but also on the targeted public, Garance Pardigon evokes particularly the primovoters and abstentionists who populate the TikTok platform.
Today, she has more than 170,000 subscribers and 2.7 million « likes » on her account.
Dhanaraj Kheokao is a professor of law at the University of Potsdam. He has also taught in Mannheim, after several years of practising law in Thailand, in Bangkok.
He is the author of the Thailand page of the Digital News Report. In it he describes the installed importance of television in Thai mass media culture, while the print media is going digital and sometimes abandoning print. He relates this pressure for the press to go digital, often for economic reasons, to the practices of the Thai population, which is turning to social networks for information. For example, 55% of the people he interviewed follow the news on YouTube. These changes are partly due, according to him, to the pandemic which has pushed Thai people to use their phones more intensively.
What are the consequences of these new citizen practices? This is what Dhanaraj Kheokao investigates in the second part of his article, and what he will talk about at the New Journalism Practices day at Sciences Po. Small sensationalist stories, such as the dubious death of a Thai actress, create a buzz and flood the networks, sometimes taking more space than events of public interest such as the pandemic. Thai citizens then conduct their own investigations to satisfy the appetite of the digital public, blurring the line between verified information and fake news. He concludes with a short analysis of TikTok: « News on TikTok tends to focus on lighter, entertainment-based content and is often not considered reliable. »
Brandi Geurkink is a senior manager at Mozilla, where she advocates for « the values of an open, safe, and private web. »
She graduated with honors from the American University of Winthrop with a bachelor of arts degree and studied political science, always with a keen interest in human rights advocacy. She has worked on issues of racism and has been involved in various political science associations.
Before moving to Berlin in 2019, she organized several campaigns for various anti-racist and social justice movements. In particular, she worked at the World Wide Web foundation, launching the first public awareness campaign for the « Contract for the web », an initiative aimed at fighting against the elements that can pollute the use of the internet: political manipulation, fake news, privacy violations, etc.
With this in mind, she now lives in Germany where she leads Mozilla’s campaign operations to lobby policy makers and corporations.
She is particularly interested in TikTok, the second largest social network in the world with nearly 2 billion users. She defends the introduction of a transparency policy within this gigantic communication tool.
Karen K. Ho
Karen K. Ho is a print journalist who dedicates her work to business, culture and media issues. She currently works in New York for Artnews.
She studied journalism at Columbia University and received her Master of Arts degree from the Columbia School of Journalism with a focus on business and economics.
She began her career at Quartz and Insider covering business and finance before going freelance. For several years, she was published in various newspapers and magazines including: GQ, NBC News, The New York Times, TIME, The Outline, The National Post, The Globe and Mail. Since October 2022, she has been an author for Artnews, an American art magazine. She has twice been nominated for the National Magazine Award, given annually to « recognize editorial excellence in magazines and encourage the vitality of their content.
Her interests include data journalism, new languages and emerging markets. Given her background at the intersection of media and culture, she will speak at the New Journalism Practices day at Sciences Po about how the Tik tok algorithm promotes emotional reactions.
The twitter account « Doomscrolling Reminder Bot » of which she is the creator is a glimpse of her look at our relationship to social networks. This bot (personified by a frog by Matsumoto Hoji) produces posts « that tell you to drink water, sit up straight, and stop doomscrolling ».
Guillaume Chaslot is now a scientific expert on Artificial Intelligence and Datascience at PEReN, the « pôle d’expertise de la régulation numérique » (digital regulation expertise centre) created by the French government in 2020. This is a new step in the career of the engineer who, before working on the regulation of platforms using algorithms, was himself at the origin of them.
Guillaume Chaslot holds a PhD in computer science and is a specialist in artificial intelligence and recommendation algorithms. After a short period at Microsoft, he began his career in California at Google. He then worked on improving the algorithms of the video platform YouTube. Guillaume Chaslot spent three years working on improving the recommendation system. During the golden age of social networking in the United States, he quickly realised that the algorithm created a « filter bubble » effect that tended to lock consumers into the same content. In 2013, Guillaume Chaslot was dismissed by Google, the group mentioning « too poor performance », while he spoke instead of « discrepancies », having tried to find alternatives to filter bubbles.
Sometime later, he realised that the algorithms not only always favoured the same content but also toxic and alternative truth content. To raise awareness of the harmful side of these recommendation systems, he founded the organisation AlgoTransparency. Initially focused on the YouTube algorithm, it now also includes data sets from Twitter and Google. When asked by AFP about the evolution of algorithms, Guillaume Chaslot makes a blunt observation: “Recommendation algorithms have become a kind of Frankenstein, a kind of monster that has escaped control. We don’t know what it does, we don’t know why it does it, we just know that it generates more view time.”
In 2020 he is participating in Jeff Orlowski’s Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which explores the power of social media on information and opinion.
Jess McHugh is an author and journalist based between Paris and New York. She studied 19th century poetry in Yale “among other fascinating and profoundly impractical things” as she describes in her own words. Her work on culture, history, politics and identity notoriously appeared in The New York Times, the Guardian, Vice, The Washington Post and many more.
She writes and reports about diverse topics such as why american feminism do not talk about femicides, bisons, the quiet mysticism of almanacs, how women invented book clubs and the rise of female Christian influencers on Tik Tok.
Her first book Americanon meticulously decorticates America’s character through thirteen best-selling books of the country: almanacs, manuals and dictionaries that shaped the views and made archetypes for the ideal American.
Through reading-habits and cultural mass-consumption Jess McHugh explains subtitle the creation of the American character. It’s hard to find such identifiable best-sellers on Tik Tok, but analyzing influencers content and the way TikTok consumers receive it seems like a crucial challenge to any journalist, whether they like social media or not.
In her piece “You can’t cancel me” McHugh profiles a former fitness influencer accused of scamming her many clients who turned to Christianity as a new form of displaying herself and her business. About the language of such influencers, she writes: “Psychologists have described this type of language as a “thought-terminating cliche”. It’s a phrase that shuts down dissent, and it’s routinely employed by politicians and cult leaders alike to quiet cognitive dissonance. It helps transform life’s ambiguities into rigid categories, creating ready-made meaning from the shrapnel of modern life.”
For the #NPDJ, she agreed to explain why “You can’t cancel” influencers and how to report on TikTok trends and influences.
Written by: Juliette Gache
Double graduate of the Sciences Po journalism school and Columbia University in New York in 2009, Chine Labbé is the European editor-in-chief of Newsguard, an American start-up founded in 2018 that rates news websites « according to nine journalistic criteria ». Chine Labbé alerts on the new weight of Tik Tok and its failures to protect its users from fake news.
Chine Labbé scrolled through Tik Tok with six other journalists from the American start-up Newsguard. And as the European editor of this rating agency that gives good and bad points to news media, she was terrified by what she saw there at the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022. After 40 minutes of intensive scrolling, « all analysts were offered false or misleading content about the war in Ukraine », lamented Chine Labbé in a report published by the start-up in March 2022.
According to another survey published online in September by Newsguard, 20% of videos posted on the social network contain « misinformation ». Yet TikTok claims to have over a billion users. The Chinese application will have at least 11 million users in France by 2020, according to Bloomberg, and six out of ten teenagers « scroll » according to a study by the Pew Research Center think-tank.
Chine Labbé, a former journalist for The Economist and the Reuters news agency, and his teams even estimate that Tik Tok « has overtaken Google as the most popular website in the world in 2021 ». And for a social network where 30% of users are under 18 in France, one of the challenges is to control the flow of information. « On TikTok, the basic problem is that the application offers no hierarchy, no differentiation of content. Because it’s not designed for that, » she lamented in an interview with Le Bien Public in September.
Tik Tok is not her only battle horse. Chine Labbé explores the antics of other news sites. In fact, she spends much of her time reading media news: « My job is to monitor all the new sites that emerge, » she explained on our school’s website. Whether they are reliable or not, write some analyses, edit those produced by our analysts, and make sure they stay up to date, and are not ‘dated’. »
Marion Wyss has worked in the French online press since 2006 : L’Obs, Sciences et Avenir, or Challenges (as Deputy Digital Director). She then created her own company Underlines. Her goal : to advise publishers on monetization and reader loyalty.
Marketing Director of Poool since June 2021, she offers solutions to French media to produce paid content. Le Point, Jeune Afrique and Nice Matin use her methods.
In October 2022, she created The Audiencers. She analyzes the development of media on social networks or the creation of content (the launch of AlterEco on TikTok for example) and wonders how to monetize the content of editors. It seeks to go beyond the model of advertising in the media, to offer new content. « Trust, usefulness, ease: the combo quality of the press that allows to capture and retain subscribers » she says.
She participated in the second edition of the Tech Stack study with Jean-François Fogel, director of the master of media and digital management at Sciences Po Paris. « What tools do press publishers use in France for the production and distribution of their digital content? » : she will present the answers to this question during the #NPDJ.
Jean-François Fogel is a journalist and consultant. He has a degree in economics, and is a graduate of Sciences Po and the Centre de formation des journalistes. After starting at AFP, he worked for many publications including Libération and Le Point. He was an advisor to the management of Le Monde and participated in the definition and implementation of various editorial strategies, at Le Monde of course, but also at Sud Ouest, and in Latin America. He is one of the leaders of the Foundation for a New Journalism in Latin America, a foundation created by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He has published several books, including Morand-Express (Grasset, 1980) and Fin de siècle à La Havane (Le Seuil, 1993). He also wrote with Bruno Patino The digital condition (Grasset, 2014) and A press without Gutenberg (Grasset, 2005).
Elena Cabral is a professor and assistant dean at Columbia’s School of Journalism, from which she graduated. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in history, also from Columbia.
Before joining the teaching staff at the New York institution, she worked as a journalist, writing for VIBE, Marie Claire, Commonweal and PODER, among others. She has worked for the Miami Herald, where she covered the arrival of Cuban migrant Elian Gonzalez and the 2000 U.S. presidential election ballot count.
Now involved in the university community, she supervises and advises students from admission to graduation. She is also the faculty advisor for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists student organization at Columbia University.
Last but not least, she is in charge of the communication of the school of journalism, especially through social networks. She manages communication with international partnerships in Barcelona, Paris, Chile, Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
From her militant parents she inherited « the love of writing and speak the truth to power ».
The 25-year-old journalist has made social networks a support for daily journalism and has built a reference media on it.
« A quick and easy news summary » to read or watch directly on social media. This is the recipe thought up by Hugo Travers, a 25 years old, which makes the success of his online news media. In 2015, while a first-year student at Sciences Po, Hugo Travers created HugoDécrypte, a media tailored to the 15-25. Unlike most online news media that use social networks primarily to promote their content – reading is done after being redirected to another site – Hugo Travers makes his journalistic content available directly on the social media. The recipe works and the public has been flocking. His videos, in which he summarizes the daily news on camera, are part of the everyday life of a whole part of his generation.
Today, his news videos posted daily on TikTok are a success that allows him to compete with large and historic news media. On TikTok, Hugo Travers regularly exceeds one million daily views, reaching audiences equal to those of the 12:45 news of the M6 channel, the most watched midday news in France. The success of HugoDécrypte is spread across all social networks. The media has 3.3 millions followers on TikTok, 2.3 millions on Instagram, 1.71 millions on YouTube and 297,800 on Twitch. HugoDécrypte has become one of the media phenomena of our time. Graduated of Sciences Po in 2020, Hugo Travers has since devoted himself entirely to his media business that now employs nineteen collaborators who fill his social networks with news summaries.
Since the 2017 French presidential election, his media has become a must-go for political figures, just like the prime time shows on the national French TV France 2. French president, Emmanuel Macron, granted him an interview of over an hour in 2019. Marine Le Pen, Yannick Jadot, Nathalie Artaud, Jean-Luc Mélenchon or Fabien Roussel, candidates for the 2022 presidential election, have all been on his camera. His interviews with American billionaire Bill Gates, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet or former French president François Hollande – exceeding one million views – continue to frame him in the media landscape as a reference interviewer.
Axel Beaussart studied communication and media at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM). He dedicated his thesis to the influence of the livestreaming format and the Twitch platform in the future media landscape.
Since October 2021, he is a social creative strategist in a communication agency, Hungry and Foolish, a position he articulates with the editor-in-chief of Spotters.
Spotters has more than 14,000 followers on Twitter and more than 1200 on Instagram. The media offers analyses of trends, new formats developed on social networks. Thanks to articles, thematic files, threads or interviews, Spotters relies on a diversity of contents to offer a serious coverage of the Internet news. Initially voluntary, the media, managed by a team of young web enthusiasts, has since abandoned the associative form to become a company.
Remy Buisine is a French journalist and videographer. As a journalist for Brut, he became famous for his work on social networks and his live coverage of demonstrations and news events. He is now deputy editor in charge of short formats.
Originally from the North of France, he learned how to read with the local newspaper La Voix du Nord at his grandmother’s house. At school, he was told to pursue a career in horticulture but kept thinking about journalism. At the end of RC Lens plays – his favorite soccer club – and during major news events, he was constantly talking to journalists and how what is happening to the field is going to the newsroom and then to the audience.
In 2015, he launched a Periscope channel, a platform that allows live video broadcasting, and began covering news events without interruption. He was one of the first journalists in France to experiment with this format, and quickly decided to put viewer’s comments and interactivity at the heart of his work.
During the Nuit Debout protests in 2016 his work was spotted by Brut. Starting in August 2016 he covered the public protests and events for the pureplayer. In 2018, his live broadcasts of the Gilets Jaunes protests made him gain notoriety, the second demonstration on November the 24th 2018 was watched by 9 million viewers and generated 172,000 comments.
With 2.8 million subscribers on Brut’s TikTok account and nearly 110,000 on his personal account, Rémy Buisine will be conversing with Hugo Travers (Hugo Décrypte) and Alex Beaussart at the #NPDJ to discuss whether or not newsrooms should go on TikTok.