Alter the media! We found the journalists! [Social Media Lab blog]

Originally posted to the Social Media Lab blog.

Where in the world is…

It has taken an entire election campaign, but it looks like NS journalists are finally joining the online discussion about the Nova Scotia election and are beginning to actively interact with Twitter users.

In our first blog post  and in a Sun TV Battleground interview we noted the strange absence of journalists and the main stream media from the #NSpoli Twitter discussion. In other provincial political discussion on Twitter such as #BCpoli and #ONpoli, as well as within #CDNpoli, journalists and mainstream media Twitter accounts are very well represented. In cases where they are present in the discussion, they tend to be highly central in the communication network and in many cases work to bridge across partisan clusters. Being central in a communications network is often used by researchers as a proxy to determine one’s relative influence and authority within a network.

In the #NSpoli community prior to the election and during the first three weeks of the writ period, journalists were not highly central, they were not talked to or about much, and were not really part of the #NSpoli conversation at all. But today, election day, the story is different.

The graph below represents the #NSpoli network from mid-July to the morning of October 8 – election day. Just one week ago the graph looked very different (see our previous blog post). There were distinct clusters for each of the three major political parties, a cluster in which a union representative was most central, and no sign of journalists either in a distinct cluster, occupying a central role in the party clusters, or bridging across clusters.

NSpoliOct8

In this more recent graph we see a large component in the center where we find accounts like @ctvatlantic and @chronicleherald. While both accounts were mentioned sporadically over the course of the election, neither had been particularly central, certainly not compared to the party leaders. To be sure, the number of tweets mentioning parties and leaders still outweighs that of any mainstream media account, but a change is undeniable. These accounts, and others linked to specific journalists and outlets are now a more integral part of that core group.

Interestingly, there is one grouping that has become more dense and distinct in the #NSPoli discussion. The graph below is a cut down version of the #NSpoli network and shows only this one cluster.

redcluster

The cluster near the bottom is, roughly, made up of national media and federal politicians which links to the larger main component. @Sunnewsnetwork and @davidakin are the most central accounts in this group.

National media, or at least those who have engaged with the Nova Scotia election have now formed their own dense cluster, something that only came about in a big way over the final few days of campaigning. Why these national actors have joined the discussion on a decidely regional discussion is interesting and will require more analysis.

Leaders and Their Followers

Over the course of the campaign dense clusters of users formed around each of the three main political parties and their leaders. A cluster around union organizers also formed. There were small groupings of accounts from elsewhere – a small pocket of Newfoundlanders, a grouping of #CDNpoli enthusiasts, federal politicians, etc.

Today, the NDP and Liberal groups have merged into one big central mass, in fact @premierdexter, @stephenmcneil, @nsndp, and @nsliberal are all occupying nearly the exact same space on the graph. For those keeping track, @nsndp is still the most central in this community.

The @nspc and @jamieballie accounts are still found in their own cluster, but even that is being drawn into the center mass and is relatively less isolated in the #NSPoli communication network.

The graph below shows the main cluster which houses the NDP and Liberal accounts (yellow and green) and the cluster off to the bottom right (turquoise) in which we find the PC accounts.

partiesOct8

What does all of this mean?

Well, it means that in the frenzy of the final few days of campaigning, Twitter users, regardless of party or political role (i.e. journalist, candidate, volunteer, etc.) were all chatting to, and about, a wide range of others. The partisan camps have been vacated and users are pouring into the commons. We know that within that commons journalists have piped up alongside partisan supporters, candidates, parties, and interest groups. The question remains, are average citizens engaging in this political chat? We haven’t got much evidence to suggest they are. And so, how to engage less politically active social media users and how to bring them into the conversation remains a challenge for campaigns.

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