21/1/2016

#ThisIsACoup: A Case Study of Data Journalism using Social Media

 

Data journalists looking to utilize social media data corresponding to emerging news stories should be aware that their article should be written and pitched in a timely manner.  This article presents the lessons that were learnt in relation to how #ThisIsACoup was covered in the mainstream media.

On Sunday 12 July 2015, following the Euro Summit, a hashtag was created that would be tweeted out over 377,000 times in less than 24 hours. The hashtag, #ThisIsACoup, was created by members of the public in protest of the stringent Greek bailout demands. #ThisIsACoup drew tweets from the mainstream media, Nobel Prize winners, and current Prime Ministers.

By the afternoon of 13 July several news articles had been published by the Guardian, Telegraph, and BBC News, to name a few, detailing the hashtag and how it spread. These were not the ‘best’ articles on the #ThisIsACoup hashtag, but they all have one thing in common: they were all among the first articles to be published.

On Sunday 12 July, before any articles were published, I received a message from a Greek friend, alerting me to the hashtag #ThisIsACoup and suggesting it may have huge analytical value. At the time, I had not kept an eye on the situation and I wasn’t fully aware of the severity of what was going on. I went on to analyze the hashtag and my tweets went on to receive thousands of views.

Around September 2015, I received a message from a journalist inquiring about my Twitter analysis. I then posted an article on 26 September 2015 entitled ‘An analysis of #ThisIsACoup’, which went on to receive over 1,300 hits in a matter a few hours. Towards the end of the year, I attempted to get my blog published as a news article for the mainstream media, but although I had complete coverage and data of the situation, it lacked sufficient news value.

So although I had a complete set of data and I may have generated the best article, I was too late. No mainstream news organisation wanted to run with the story. I finally did go on get my article published (5 months after the initial hashtag was virial), and the article was very well received, see experts below:

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Read the full article here: Amplified messages: How hashtag activism and Twitter diplomacy converged at #ThisIsACoup – and won.

Based on my experience, my advice to any data journalists out there using social media data or online data is to act fast, as being the first to report on a trending topic is often among the most important criteria for a pitch to be accepted for publication. This can be tricky for those who have other commitments, for example, staying up till the early hours of the night ferociously typing away, when you have an 8AM meeting the following morning is never ideal!

Photo: Carlos ZGZ

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