Changes brought about by the digitalisation of journalism in the global South have implications for the role that the press plays in politics and governance, particularly in terms of giving a voice to those on the margins. This paper presents original evidence from India to consider how Twitter is reshaping the hierarchies within journalism and how it contributes to a ‘star system’ in Indian media institutions whereby national journalists as well as celebrities have gained more influence over journalists working in the regional press. Drawing on public profiles of over 50 journalists, while anonymizing individual identities, we computationally map their follower-following networks on Twitter and analyse the resulting structures to show how they intensify the historical divide between the Delhi-based legacy institutions and the vernacular language media. Besides using network graphs, we develop topic models of the biographies of journalists from different social cohorts and find a divergence in the way celebrity-seeking journalists use Twitter more effectively than those working in the regional press, with the latter not able to match the strategic use of the network for personal branding by the former cohort. We conclude that this divergence can also be contributing towards a star system like structure of journalism online with readership and influence flowing to those at the centre. We conclude with recommendations for editors, journalists as well as technology developers on how to avoid such outcomes.
Photo by Jonathan Robles