The News We don’t Hear About

Posted on 02 July 2012 by JasonK

Have you ever wondered what the real news is? One way of discovering what is really important to different readers is to look at media where there is a ready flow of comments.

The Economist does this quite well with live bubble style graphics being generated by topic.

Last week I had a look at this to see what the real stories might be – because – lets face it some news channels like TV are 98% entertainment and formulaic in the extreme.

These charts relate to 25th of June but you can pick any date and sort through the topics to see what makes sense or not. I like the way these comment bubbles give an indication of the “news behind the news”
.
Trending topics – Read comments on the site’s most popular topics – and best part is that you can delete various bubbles so here is the first i the sequence – which is the full picture with no edits.

First of all the Economist is UK based but has 20 correspondents abroad in SF and NY as well as in London which is still home base. I think of the Economist as Eurocentric but looking at the comment bubble maps it looks more international now.

In this one I was surprised that the US & Israel had such big coverage.

30-days-conversation-economist

30 days global

Here is version 2. I stripped out China and India cluster to see what would happen. The big news story this week was Greece but you can’t see that in the comment bubble stream. It is almost as if the lead story on TV news is being ignored by these Economist readers.

And Syria – is almost completely missed despite being a major bloodbath ? Is this because ther was too much coverage of Syria or not enough by comparison. I had to look up Angus Maddison but topic like that I also just zapped off the chart.

Each time you zap a bubble the next best cluster relocates and often new topics emerge as they do when I tried drilling down on the US whcih are the last two snapshots in this sequence.

comments with China & India stripped out

Here is view 3

Looking at a more US centric view – version 1

And final version for today. The idea here is to use the visual data modelling thinking to strip out some of the noise to signal ratio and try to understand what the real concerns are.

If I was in the editorial team at the Economist – I should think this might be a useful side calibration kind of compass.

This is a fairly crude way of looking at what Economist readers think is interesting to them and what engages them enough to pick up a pen or keyboard.

What do you think? Where do you get your news and how much filtering ( like snow grooming ) is going on.

When is the news just another information product and the media just another sideshow ?

I have been writing for 40+ years now* and for the past 15 pretty much ignoring TV and newspapers for the past 10. If I am in a new city I like to look at the newspapers and I have written for plenty of them but really twitter is my main story feeder.

I do follow quite a few journalists on twitter and as they are in many cases the leading pundits for their respective journals so as sources they are quite insightful.

I do listen to National radio but only when I am driving & can’t really do anything else. Public affairs radio seems to me to have the best commentary on the leading stories but again – I track those via twitter first and decide which ones to listen to.

Often that is later by podcast or iphone app which is the same thing.

* Ok 40 years ago my first published work involved cats and very bad poetry but in 1972 we didn’t have much happening in our little town. I find it hard to believe that the internet si still stuck in 1972 for many people if the gazillion stories about cats is actually true but go figure – I moved on – or have I?

Here is a full sized live link to Economist stories depending on when you look it will show a different view but at any point in time I think it is a kind of litmus test of “the news we don’t hear about. “

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