Archive for the ‘statistics’ tag

Election press coverage stats special

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What political slogans were picked up most during the election campaign? Which leaders did the press focus on and who did the papers ignore? What issues were talked about and which weren’t?

This is an election press coverage stats special – an analysis of press coverage from Tuesday 6th April when the campaign started, to Thursday 6th of May when it finished. The stats are based on articles published in the national press (online) and on the BBC news website – using data from journalisted.com.

The slogans

Gordon Brown’s manifesto pledge of a ‘future fair for all’ made it into only 82 articles. By contrast, David Cameron’s pitch for a ‘big society’, though it may not have convinced the columnists or a majority of the electorate, was referred to in 480 news articles (almost 400 more than his other pledge to help the ‘great ignored’, referred to in 91 articles). ‘Old politics’, a favourite phrase of Nick Clegg, was mentioned in 168 articles.

The leaders (and spouses)

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg were each referenced in over 3,000 articles (‘Cleggmania’ made it into 166 articles). Translated into percentages their coverage equated to – Labour 39%: Conservative 35%: Lib Dem 27% (a distribution Gordon Brown would have been much happier with).

Coverage of the leaders of the other parties was, unsurprisingly, significantly lower:

  • Only 60 articles mentioned Ieuan Wyn Jones, the leader of Plaid Cymru;
  • Compared to 420 articles that referred to Alex Salmond, head of the Scottish National Party;
  • 161 articles talked about Nick Griffin, head of the BNP;
  • 135 articles mentioned Nigel Farage – ex-leader of UKIP and its representative for Buckingham who survived a plane crash on polling day, and;
  • There were 105 articles referring to Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party and its first British Member of Parliament.

Still, only Alex Salmond managed to gain more coverage than Sarah Brown (182 articles), with Samantha Cameron not much less covered (154 articles). Miriam Clegg only found herself in the limelight in the final stages (26 articles).

The politicians

The Conservatives’ ‘decapitation strategy’ to depose Ed Balls helped raise his profile – he was mentioned in 583 articles, more than anyone else in the Brown cabinet except deus-ex-machina Lord Mandelson (747 articles).

Balls was also higher profile than Labour’s other election campaign co-ordinators, Douglas Alexander (123 articles) and Harriet Harman (263 articles).

He was not, however, covered as widely as the shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, who – despite a very low profile during the campaign – appeared in 701 articles. This was more than his Lib Dem counterpart Vince Cable (624 articles) and the actual chancellor, Alistair Darling (535 articles).

The spin doctors…

… managed, for the most part, to remain hidden. Andy Coulson made an appearance early in the campaign, and articles about what he knew about phone tapping while editor of News of the World rumbled in the background. But this translated into a total of 59 articles over the month – vs Alastair Campbell in 167. Less even than Charlie Whelan, Brown’s ex-spin doctor who now heads the union Unite, who appeared in 69 articles during the campaign.

Lena Pietsch, Nick Clegg’s press spokesperson, was not covered until the Clegg bounce, after which she appeared in 8 articles (including the Daily Mail, the Guardian and the Independent) – 6 fewer than John Sharkey, Clegg’s strategic communications adviser who, according to Th
e Sun, wrote the Lib Dem leader’s TV debate strategy.

The issues

The economy was the chief battleground on which all three main parties fought. 595 articles talked about ‘austerity’, a favourite Cameron term. 390 articles referred to ‘tax credits’, thanks in part to frequent reference to them by Gordon Brown in the latter stages of the campaign.

Electoral reform’, that became such a significant issue after the election, was also one during it – discussed in 459 articles. 302 of these referred to the ‘first past the post’ system currently used in the UK, as opposed to 283 articles that talked about ‘proportional representation’.

Political issues that excited editors and commentators included: inflation (815 articles), spending cuts (770 articles), immigrants (713 articles), budget deficit (468 articles), ‘black hole‘ (177 articles).

Issues that failed to ignite during the campaign: Sure Start (a respectable, but hardly campaign leading 131 articles), ‘broken Britain’ (63 articles), ‘NHS spending’ (36 articles), ‘pensions timebomb’ (6 articles).

Gillian Duffy, the Rochdale grandmother Gordon Brown described as bigoted, distracted media coverage for about 4 days. Duffy was referred to in a total of 438 articles.

The likely outcome

Hung parliament’ became something of an obsession of the political press during the campaign (rightly as it turned out), being referred to in 1,884 articles. 234 articles speculated about the nature of a ‘minority government’. 202 articles talked about ‘tactical voting’.

New polls emerged daily and sometimes even more frequently. In the battle of the pollsters YouGov came out top with 476 articles, followed by ComRes on 283 articles, ICM on 246 articles, Mori on 168 articles, and Populus on 165 articles.

Unable to predict a clear outcome, animated by the first UK television debates, and spooked by the poll bounce of Nick Clegg, the press appeared more excited by this election campaign than the two previous. There were certainly few reports of ‘apathy’ or ‘boredom’.

The numbers can, of course, only ever tell part of the story. They miss the ebb and flow of comment, analysis and endorsements, the occasional contortions of the press, and the rising hysteria of some papers in the final fortnight. But that’s for another blogpost.

Written by Martin Moore

May 10th, 2010 at 6:41 am

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Journalism by numbers

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495: national news articles that talked about a ‘hung parliament’ last week

62: percent rise in articles referring to Nick Clegg last week vs the previous 7 days (and 171% higher than the week before that)

27: articles about Orlando Figes, 7 more than mentioned Vladimir Putin

These are all numbers taken from journalisted weekly – a statistical analysis of each week’s national print journalism we started a few weeks back (now published every Tuesday).

Why?

Partly out of frustration. Everyone talks about ‘what’s in the news’ but this normally equates to ‘what I read a lot about’ or ‘what caught my eye’. Very rarely do you see a factual breakdown of what was actually reported, and what wasn’t.

Partly for the record. It’s important to be able to look back over certain events and see what role journalism played. How well did the papers cover the 2010 election? Who predicted either the importance of the TV debates or the rise of the Lib Dems? (As it happens, Andrew Porter wrote – last December – that they were ‘a gamble’ for Brown and Cameron).

What?

So what does it include?

Well, it’s only natural to start with what’s been covered lots in the press. For this we look at the top 100 subjects written about during the week and cross reference the number of times someone or something has been mentioned with the number of articles in which it has been mentioned. From this we can get a pretty good idea what’s been written about most.

We then look at what hasn’t been covered much. This – as you can probably guess – is rather trickier. Lots and lots doesn’t get covered every week, mostly because it isn’t ‘news’ (or what we understand as news). So we look for discrepancies – like the fact that Alex Salmond of the SNP was written about in 89 articles and Ieuan Wyn Jones of Plaid Cymru in only 4 – and for gaps in public interest reporting (like seeing if there hasn’t been anything on prisons, or social care, or knife crime, for example).

Political ups and downs counts the coverage of party leaders, parties and political policies.

X vs Y offsets coverage of different subjects in order to highlight some of the oddities, contradictions and obsessions of our national press. Such as the 307 articles talking about Wayne Rooney in Easter week, compared to 164 that mentioned Jesus.

Long form journalism started out as an experiment but is proving surprisingly illuminating. We wondered if, based on length of article alone, one could dig out in-depth original journalism. Turns out you can, sort of (provided you filter out the minute-by-minute live coverage of sporting events).

Finally, we pick out one of the week’s most newsworthy topics and point people to journalists – across the national press – that have been covering it extensively.

You

This was never intended only to be a spectator sport. We hope to kick start more analysis of UK journalism – either through journalisted.com or elsewhere. Journalisted has an API and a full text search, so anyone can do analysis of the press coverage if they want to.

Equally, if you have any suggestions as to how we could improve journalisted weekly, or what other analyses we should add – please do get in touch and let me know. Oh, and you can subscribe to journalisted weekly here.

Written by Martin Moore

April 27th, 2010 at 1:10 pm

A pandemic of drunkenness or statistics designed to make a story?

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Amongst the current clump of articles about fear on the streets, anarchy in the UK and the sorry state of our policing there have been some shocking statistics about young people and alcohol.

86% of teenagers have consumed alcohol under age, David Wooding reports in The Sun. ‘More than half drink at least once a day – while one in ten hits the booze every day… More than 12 per cent also said they admired hellraising singer Amy Winehouse – who is currently in rehab‘ [Sun's italics].

The paper goes on to quote a head shaking John Sewell, managing director of OnePoll, the company who conducted the alcohol survey. “These results are extremely worrying” says Sewell, “Teenagers think it is a normal thing because they constantly see pictures of their idols going in and out of rehab”.

Indeed the statistics are worrying, although lose some of their impact if you read the blurb on OnePoll’s website.

“Many of our clients” the company says candidly, “use OnePoll to trigger high impact media coverage”. “Our team of national news journalists and PR experts know what the media will use”. And, in a remarkably frank admission it admits that “we draw up poll questions in a way that will maximise story hooks”.

Suddenly the evidence for a pandemic of drunkenness amongst young people seems slightly less convincing.

Written by Martin Moore

August 21st, 2007 at 7:46 am

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