Taking Media Cloud For A Drive

Following up on my last post about the possibilities of Berkman’s new Media Cloud analysis platform, I thought I’d give the system a test drive. I wanted to find the keywords surrounding the recent Rick Santelli hubbub (full story here), and see if they revealed anything significant about the story. So I input “Rick Santelli” as my keyword (or pivot term) and asked Media Cloud to spit out the 10 most frequently occurring keywords in any articles involving my search term. The image reproduced below shows the results for three major outlets: The Times, The Post and The Atlantic.

Santelli - Media Cloud Graphy

As you can see, the selected outlets dedicated most of their attention to the story’s relationship to Pres. Obama and the debate over the stimulus bill. This only makes sense, since in the viral clip from CNBC, Santelli calls the White House out specifically. To a lesser extent, The Atlantic and The NYT picked up White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’s icy rejoinder, while Chicago didn’t give much coverage to it.

It is interesting (though unsurprising) that the Atlantic chart shows strong hits for “Matt Drudge” and “Michelle Malkin,” given that the magazine is more analytic than newsy; its blogs were reacting to the original story after it was picked up by conservative blog outlets. The MSM newspapers, on the other hand, avoided the story until the pitch got too high in the blogosphere.

But once they did finally catch onto the internet story, both The Chicago Tribune and The NYT caught on to its most salient detail: that Santelli had called for a “Chicago tea party” and was subsequently accused by a Playboy article that he was astro-turfing for libertarians.

I tried to run the same search for several big blogs and didn’t turn anything up. I hope that’s a programming kind to be worked out soon, because I think it’s there that Media Cloud’s potential will be best realized. Imagine the ability to compare graphicaly the intensity of coverage between prominent but niche blogs and big traditional newspapers. Discussion of what makes something newsworthy could then be studied both quantitatively and qualitatively.

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