Invisible Friend or Foe?How Journalists Use and Perceive Algorithmic-Driven Tools in Their Research Process

Yael de Haan*, Eric van den Berg, Nele Goutier, Sanne Kruikemeier, Sophie Lecheler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The use of algorithmic tools by journalists for information-gathering has received particular attention in recent years. While it might facilitate the research process, there are also concerns about their impact on journalism. Based on reconstruction interviews with 27 journalists, we first answer the primary question to what extent journalists actually use algorithmic-driven tools for research purposes. Then, we analyze which folk theories journalists create during their use of algorithm-driven tools. Results show that algorithmic tools specifically designed for the journalistic research process are rarely or not at all used. Yet, more crucially, search engines and social media, that are driven by algorithms, play a major role when it comes to the search, selection, and verification of sources and information. However, journalists are not aware of this hidden research assistant facilitating their research process. When explicitly asked, they profess specific notions regarding the use of algorithmic-driven tools in the form of folk theories, which are predominantly negative regarding the influence of AI on journalism. At the same time, there is a still a strong feeling of a professional authority among journalists who feel they are able to work autonomously of any kind of influence, including algorithms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1775-1793
JournalDigital Journalism
Issue number10
Early online date15 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • algorithms
  • artificial intelligence
  • folk theories
  • Machine learning
  • research
  • sourcing


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