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Features

Editors Welcome

Invitation

Books - Recent titles with relevance to political communication

Book Series Proposals - An invitation from Paradigm Publishers and David Paletz – Media & Power

Grants - Recovery Act research opportunities

ICA Paper Reviewers

Tracking the life and death of news - by Bill Steele

Editors Welcome

This issue follows some interesting political communication activity in two countries where the global financial crisis has surfaced as an agent of change. In Germany, as Eike Christian Meuter tells us, the news media framed the crisis in a way that provided an acute awareness of its connectedness to the rest of the world. While the crisis may have been responsible for Germany losing its spot at the top as the world’s leading manufacturing exporter, Meuter suggest the news media was not surprised by the arrival, nor the impact of the crisis. Further east, in the Balkans, as Marija Dimitrijevic explains, the news media and the government of Serbia attempted to paint a very different picture. Here it became clear that an attempt was made to turn the global financial crisis to political advantage and to demonstrate that Serbia and Serbians had already suffered more than others. 

In other parts of the Report, we have some very interesting recent books, followed by an invitation to submit manuscripts and ideas to David Paletz and the Media and Power series to be published by Paradigm Publishers. 

For ICA members, don’t forget that the deadline for submissions of papers and abstracts for the ICA conference in Singapore in 2010 is November 1. 

I have also included in this issue a report by Bill Steele from Cornell University on research which investigates the life and death of the news cycle. The research, by Jon Kleinberg, tracks more than ninety million articles - possibly the largest analysis of its type ever undertaken. An additional link to the graphical details is at http.memetracker.org

In the next issue due in December/January Traci Snyder from American University, DC, will provide an analysis of the political communication strategy and actions of US Senator Arlen Spector in his shift from Republican to Democrat. 

Richard Stanton

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Commentary

German Media And The Global Financial Crisis: Business As Usual

Eike Christian Meuter

The global financial crisis has shown that the world is much more connected than we had believed so far. The world’s economies are tied together closer than most of us could imagine.

It is no wonder that Germany with its export-oriented economy was hit hard by the crisis and its worldwide effects. Economic growth was at -3.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009 and the country officially entered into a recession. 1Though there are signs of recovery the financial crisis and its effects still dominate much of the country’s business activities 2.

The crisis and its reception in Germany have three major strands. The US subprime crisis that first came to the attention of the wider public through the near-collapse of IKB Bank, a lender specializing in small and medium-sized enterprises, in summer 2007. This was followed by a phase in which major financial institutions were affected – both globally and in Germany. The most notable developments in Germany were the near-collapse of DAX 30 listed Hypo Real Estate and the German government acquiring twenty five percent of Commerzbank to secure the take over of smaller rival Dresdner Bank. During this phase it became apparent that the financial crisis had spread to other sectors such the automotive, airline and the mechanical engineering industries. This can be seen as the third strand. With a focus on the time between January and May 2009 we looked at whether the business media in Germany also saw the financial crisis as the dominating theme in their reporting and how they framed the issue. The focus of the analysis was the country’s two business dailies Handelsblatt and Financial Times Deutschland as well as Wirtschaftswoche, the country’s most reputed weekly business magazine. First of all, it is interesting to see a trend that the number of articles referring to the crisis is slowly becoming smaller. The German government’s second bail-out plan ‘Konjunkturpaket II’ received significant media attention in January 2009, but interest declined afterwards. It seems that in the business press fewer authors are turning their attention to the crisis.

So coverage on the issues has become less frequent. But what is the theme of the articles that do refer to the crisis? Whether it is the merger between automotive suppliers Continental and Schaeffler, the crisis of department store company Arcandor or LyondellBasell’s US operations filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy: The financial crisis is referred to as the starting point of many of the companies’ problems and the media’s political communication frame is that is the underlying cause for many of the current developments in business. The coverage related to the crisis rarely shows any signs of emotional language – with a few exceptions. The suicide of well-known businessman Adolf Merkle in January 2009 whose Merckle group of companies severely suffered from the effects of the crisis has given a human face to the effects of the crisis. But again the crisis simply is there – few words are written or broadcast about the background of the developments. The media, however, did not entirely refrain from occasionally publishing opinion pieces or analyses of the crisis. For instance, Wolfgang Streeck, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies explained in a Handelsblatt article how the crisis will in fact make governments weaker in future despite widespread intervention.3 But most journalists see the crisis as given and do not put much detail into describing what lies behind this development on a macroeconomic level. If we look at the different phases of the crisis we have been going through, this doesn’t come as a surprise. There was much need to explain the origins of the financial crisis – who could have imagined that the collapse of certain insurance markets in the US would subsequently drive bankrupt long-established German firms. But what are the effects of the media frame for the financial crisis? No one would question that the most critical phases of the crisis are slowly coming to and end, also in Germany. But should we pay less attention to the crisis that has been described as the most severe since 1931?

For the Anglo-American world, scientists such as Shanto Iyengar and Donald Kinder have shown that there are significant effects of framing and agenda-setting by media on what people think and believe regarding certain economic issues.4 In Germany, empirical research also proved that what people think about the economic climate is coined by the media and its frame of reporting.5 Could this be the case for coverage on the global financial crisis as well?

While articles about the crisis become less frequent, the business climate is also improving. Research by the German Association of Chambers of Commerce among 20,000 businesses has found that while at the beginning of 2009 the business situations of most companies were better than their expectations, this is beginning to change.6 The economic situation in Germany will and is undoubtedly getting better and the crisis is less apparent. There is a need for more and long-term research into how political communication framing of the crisis by media has influenced the attitudes of business and the public during the different phases of the financial crisis in Germany. But if we assume that the framing effects come into play here as well, the declining importance media places on the topic seems to have an effect on how businesses perceive the current economic climate. It is now business as usual for the press and business as usual for the public as well.

References:

Deutsche Industrie- und Handelskammertag Konjunkturelle Entwicklung in Deutschland. Frühommer 2009. Available:

http://www.dihk.de/inhalt/themen/standortpolitik/konjunktur/download/Flyer_06_2009.pdf
(Accessed 6 September 2009)

Hagen, Lutz M. (2005), Konjunkturnachrichten, Konjunkturklima und Konjunktur, Cologne, Hubert van Halem.

Iyengar, Shanto and Donald R. Kinder (1987), News that Matters. Television and American Opinion, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press.

Statistisches Bundesamt, Volkswirtschaftliche Gesamtrechnungen. Available:

http://www.destatis.de/jetspeed/portal/cms/Sites/destatis/

Streeck, Wolfgang, (2009), Eine Last für Generationen, Handelsblatt, 10 March, p. 9

Eike Christian Meuter is a political communicator living in Frankfurt.


1Statistisches Bundesamt, Volkswirtschaftliche Gesamtrechnungen.
2Deutsche Industrie- und Handelskammertag, Konjunkturelle Entwicklung in Deutschland. Frühommer 2009.
3Streeck, Wolfgang, (2009), „Eine Last für Generationen“, Handelsblatt, 10 March, p. 9
4Iyengar, Shanto and Donald R. Kinder (1987), News that Matters. Television and American Opinion.
5Hagen, Lutz M. (2005), Konjunkturnachrichten, Konjunkturklima und Konjunktur.
6Deutsche Industrie- und Handelskammertag, Konjunkturelle Entwicklung in Deutschland. Frühommer 2009.

 

The World Economic Crisis in Serbia

Marija Dimitrijevic

“Everywhere in the world the economic crisis is both global and local, and only in Serbia it is only global.”1 This quote reflects perfectly the state of mind of the majority of Serbs. The statement was made on February 11, 2009. This was a time when talking to an average Serb, or visiting a few popular online forums discussing the world economic crisis, what you would hear first, would probably be a couple of good jokes. Even the Serbian acronym for the world economic crisis, SEKA (little sister) sounds anything but threatening. SEKA in Serbia is similar to the European Union; Serbia has held the presidency for the last twenty years but now other members are finally allowed to join. Recently, the latest joke — and jokes often best explain the true state of mind — is that SEKA turned into DEKA, a new acronym for Domestic Economic Crisis translated into Serbian as ‘grandpa’. So the little sister did grow in the first few months of 2009 months into something a bit more threatening.

In Serbia in 2006, the economy had already begun to cool down. With the US sub-prime mortgage collapse 2007 the matter became far more serious but it was not taken seriously in the Serbian media until the end of 2008, when the US auto manufacturers Chrysler and General Motors teetered on the brink and the crisis in US real estate market expanded. This is when Serbian media started to report, based on the analysis of local economic experts attempting to explain what the crisis could actually mean in financial terms for Serbia. Until then the Serbian media appeared to remain locally focused: they had little reason to report the events of the world. Nothing happened in Serbia that had not already happened in the past twenty years; at least nothing that could take Serbians by surprise. The crisis was for quite a while very far from us. This started to change with massive strikes in mid 2009. Things finally changed completely during July and August 2009. February 2009 was also a month when the national employment agency registered 13,000 fewer employed in February compared to March. But the news media in Serbia did not make much out of it. I would argue there is a historical reason for this; in past twenty years Serbia has faced many crises of their own (financial, military, political and moral), and that is only during the most recent generation. there was a belief that we needed much more to feel comparatively the full force of the world crisis. We needed much more than a few million people loosing their homes and jobs somewhere in the West. We may say we survived much worse times, which, we believe, makes us better qualified to not feel the full effects of the world economic crisis. There was no need for a planned communication strategy to keep us from panicking. We could not be more indifferent than we already were. In other words, we imagined we did not have much to lose. At least we thought we didn’t. Like we forgot the times when we used to say and feel that it cannot get any worse, and very soon it does. And it did in this case as well.

I suggest that what has been reported in news media in Serbia, has created three very different viewpoints on the world economic crisis in Serbia. The first lies with those who believe world economic crisis is something that has been fabricated in the west by the west; that has nothing to do with us. The second group thinks that the world economic crisis is nothing but a good excuse for recent unpopular government policies and is therefore the perfect alibi for its incompetence. The third group with more and more followers, is comprised of those who comprehend it as a reality; this group is loosely made up of those in the export business — working closely with countries who are members of the European Union already hit hard by the crisis — those who lost their jobs or know someone who did. What has created these three different perceptions? If we look at the communication statements of the political elite in Serbia, logic is more than visible. Unlike some years ago during Slobodan Milosevic’s time, when we lived in a completely dark age of media in which pro-government propaganda was overwhelming, this time our government had to come up with a well-organized political communication strategy to deal with the crisis. It is not as immune to the criticism of news media as it used to be in Milosevic’s time. If we look at the government’s political communication strategy from the beginning, we can see three different stages emerging. The government started by attempting to convince Serbian citizens that we may actually prosper from the world economic crisis. In October 2008, during a month of assurances that the world economic crisis actually represented a chance for Serbia, President Tadic explained that while the whole world was in recession this may be a chance for Serbia’s rapid development.2 At the same time, Prime Minister Cvetkovic, stated that Serbia would not experience recession nor any effect of world economic crisis.3 These statements lead to the general perception and the quote at the beginning of this report. Further, Serbian government vice-president Djelic stated that the advantage for Serbia lay in the fact that our financial system did not have the same pressure applied to it, nor did it come under the same risk as the financial system in the West. Djelic claimed our financial system was well capitalized and that the Serbian Central Bank had sufficient foreign currency funds to cover the bank savings of Serbian citizens. Djelic reinforced earlier statements that the crisis could be a great opportunity for those who knew how to use it. 4 The Minister of Economy, Mladjan Dinkic, went even further stating that Serbia was a winner in the army of losers and that Serbia was emerging from the world crisis untouched; one of the rare states who did not need to spend a single penny to save its financial institutions! Dinkic added that Serbian restrictive monetary policy was a steady protection from crises such as this one. Dinkic further explained that Serbia and China experienced the least effect from the crisis and as a result we could expect foreign investors to move their capital into Serbia in search of profit.5

If October 2008 was a month of communicative prosperity from the perspective of the Serbian government, 2009 began as a year of workers’ strikes. These have been mostly radical and massive hunger strikes. The daily newspaper Blic reported on August 6, 2009 that there were approximately forty strikes a day in Serbia. Strikes were reported in all major cities in Serbia — Subotica, Pancevo, Krusevac, Kragujevac, Vranje, Bor — with more than 10,000 people attending each rally.6 It now looks like 2009 will conclude with a vast number of people unemployed. During July and August 2009 all TV stations and daily newspapers reported first on the announcements and then on the actual massive firings of major Serbian companies: British American Tobacco fired 166 employees, US Steel 250. More then 100 TV reporters were fired from FOXTV. Croatian Pevec, operating in Serbia, fired more than 500 people, Philip Morris 306. The world economic crisis, far from being something that has happened only in the West, is finally becoming more and more local. Soon we shall see how our government and its political communicators will explain that to its citizens. Especially after so many promises that this was our best chance in years.

But let me for a moment go back to our three groups of people, and their opinions on the crisis. These three different group perceptions were constructed from the absorption of reporting on what has been happening somewhere far away in the world and by quoting statements made by our political elites. So what do we have in Serbia today? Starting with the first group, those closest to various conspiracy theories, are probably the largest group of all. This may be explained by the fact that there are 1.3 million illiterate Serbs in Serbia: twenty percent of the population.7 The size and existence of such a group may also be explained by the previously mentioned policies of Slobodan Milosevic’s aggressive media propaganda strategy directed towards the West and lasting more than ten years. The second group represents people who think of crises as good excuses for the incompetence of governments. This is the smallest group as it requires the most critical thinking. It is not a position that can be expected to be the default position among people who have already suffered so much. This group was created on the firm foundations of the obvious unpopularity of the Serbian government and the tradition of those who govern being the enemies of its own people. Here, we have disappointed and indignant people who expected much more from the period after Milosevic. People who were once angry, with the most energy and desire to change things, are now lethargic and disappointed. They ask, ‘can some world economic crisis be worse than a vicious attack on the future of the nation, evidenced by the murder of our first democratic prime minister’? It hardly can. The third group is smaller than the first two only because there are not many successful local businesses running in Serbia and there is a high level of unemployment.

This most recent crisis may easily recruit some people from the first two groups into the third one where crisis is understood seriously and taken as something that is not happening somewhere in the West, but instead it is happening to more and more people we know. It is far from the point where the average Serb loses sleep waiting for IMF reports and the plans it has for us, but the matter becomes more and more serious as it is clearly in our backyard already. The question is this; is our ‘little sister’ turning into a monster? In political communication terms, news media in Serbia started by reporting on what has been happening in the world, dislocated from Serbia until mid 2009, when the reasons behind the massive strikes needed to be explained, either by blaming the world economic crisis or by blaming the traditional incompetence of the Serbian government. As I have outlined, such a media strategy resulted in three different perceptions and groups of opinions of the crisis. A month ago, the crisis so obviously became our problem. With so many lost jobs it will become very soon our biggest problem since Milosevic and the murder of Zoran Djindjic. Neither the Serbian government nor the Serbian news media can continue to ignore the scale of the world economic crisis and to continue to frame it in political communication terms as an event of no consequence to Serbia.

Marija Dimitrijevic is a political commentator and observer living in Belgrade.


1 On February 11th 2009, Nenad Popovic, president of the Economic committee of the Democratic party of Serbia at the Center for democracy seminar Possible answers to world economic crisis.
2“Vecernje Novosti”, Daily newspaper, October 21, 2008. http://arhiv.rs/svetskaek.htm
3“Borba” Daily news papers, October 28, 2008. http://arhiv.rs/svetskaek.htm
4Vicepresident Djelic’s telephone statement to Tanjug news agency in Washington, published in “Gradjanski list”, October 12th, 2008. http://arhiv.rs/svetskaek.htm
5“Dnevnik”, October 16th, 2008; :24.sata” Daily news papers, October 23, 2008. http://arhiv.rs/svetskaek.htm
6 “Blic”, August 6th, 2009, http://www.blic.rs/drustvo.php?id=104962
7See biz http://www.seebiz.eu/hr/makroekonomija/srbija/u-srbiji-vise-od-1,3-miliona-nepismenih,55417.html

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Books - Recent titles with relevance to political communication

The Origins and Impact of Political Framing
Edited by Brian F. Schaffner and Patrick J. Sellers
ISBN: 978-0-415-99794-2
Paperback (also available in Hardback)
Routledge
August 2009
Pages: 216

Today’s politicians and political groups devote great attention to how their messages are conveyed. From policy debates in congress to advertising on the campaign trail, they choose which issues to emphasize and how to discuss them in the hope of affecting the opinions and evaluations of their target publics. This book brings together scholars from political science, communication, and psychology in a focused analysis of the origins and the real-world impact of framing. The authors discuss a broad range of contemporary issues from taxes and health-care to abortion, the death penalty, and the teaching of evolution. They illustrate the wide-ranging relevance of framing for many different contexts in American politics, including public opinion, the news media, election campaigning, parties, interest groups, congress, the presidency, and the judiciary.

“This exceptionally well-integrated collection of original essays sheds fresh light on the many intriguing facets of the framing paradigm. Well-known experts explain what framing means and how it operates in a variety of contexts. Their analyses cover a broad range of contemporary issues that are bound to engage and excite students and professors alike.” — Doris Graber, University of Illinois.

“Schaffner and Sellers have assembled good work from leading scholars of framing. This volume mixes theoretical insights with new findings from original research, showing the broad application of framing concepts across issues and contexts. It is a useful volume for anyone interested in how framing affects citizens.” —Bruce Bimber, University of California.

“This book collects nine original and innovative studies of framing in political communication. Every one offers intriguing data and insights that advance research and theory across several disciplines. Winning with Words is a winner.” —Robert M. Entman, George Washington University.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction, by Brian F. Schaffner and Patrick J. Sellers;

Part One: Origins; 2. Framing and Value Recruitment in the Debate over Teaching Evolution, by Thomas E. Nelson, Dana E. Wittmer, and Allyson P. Shortle; 3. Partisan Framing in Legislative Debates, by Douglas B. Harris; 4. Building a Framing Campaign: Interest Groups and the Debate on Partial-birth Abortion, by Jessica C. Gerrity; 5. Mobilizing to Frame Election Campaigns, by Taylor Ansley and Patrick J. Sellers; Part Two: Impact; 6. Competing Frames in a Political Campaign, by James N. Druckman; 7. Taxing Death or Estates? When Frames Influences Citizens’ Issue Beliefs, by Brian F. Schaffner and Mary Layton Atkinson; 8. Great Communicators? The Influence of Presidential and Congressional Issue Framing on Party Identification, by Michael W. Wagner; 9. The Decline of the Death Penalty: How Media Framing Changed Capital Punishment in America, by Frank R. Baumgartner, Suzanna Linn, and Amber Boydstun; 10. Framing Research: The Next Steps, by Shanto Iyengar.

Editor Brian F. Schaffner is associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and editor of the journal, Congress & The Presidency. He is also co-author with John Bibby of Parties, Politics, and Elections in America.

Patrick J. Sellers is professor of political science at Davidson College. He is the author of Cycles of Spin: Strategic Communication in the U.S. Congress.

Propaganda and Information Warfare in the Twenty-First Century
Altered Images and Deception Operations
By Scot Macdonald
ISBN: 978-0-415-54500-6
Paperback (also available in Hardback)
Routledge
January 2009
Pages: 224

This is the first book to analyze how the technology to alter images and rapidly distribute them can be used for propaganda and to support deception operations.

In the past, propagandists and those seeking to conduct deception operations used crude methods to alter images of real people, events and objects, which could usually be detected relatively easily. Today, however, computers allow propagandists to create any imaginable image, still or moving, with appropriate accompanying audio. Furthermore, it is becoming extremely difficult to detect that an image has been manipulated, and the Internet, television and global media make it possible to disseminate altered images around the world almost instantaneously. Given that the United States is the sole superpower, few, if any, adversaries will attempt to fight the US military conventionally on the battlefield. Therefore, adversaries will use propaganda and deception, especially altered images, in an attempt to level the battlefield or to win a war against the United States without even having to fight militarily.

For thise interested in information war, propaganda, public diplomacy and security studies in general.

Table of Contents

1. The Lying Eye: Photography, Propaganda and Deception 2. The Easiest Mark: The United States 3. Psyops: Hearts and Minds and Eyes 4. Psyops: The Un-American Weapon? 5. Deception is a Many and Varied Thing 6. How to Deceive: Principles 7. How to Deceive: Stratagems 8. The Best Deceivers: The British in World War Two 9. The Threat: Striking the Media Culture 10. Defense: The Media Culture Strikes Back Conclusion Bibliography

Political Regimes and the Media in Asia
Edited by Krishna Sen and Terence Lee
ISBN: 978-0-415-49173-0
Paperback (also available in Hardback)
Routledge
November 2008
Pages: 248

This book analyzes the relationship between political power and the media in a range of nation states in East and Southeast Asia, focusing in particular on the place of the media in authoritarian and post-authoritarian regimes. It discusses the centrality of media in sustaining repressive regimes, and the key role of the media in the transformation and collapse of such regimes. It questions in particular the widely held beliefs, that the state can have complete control over the media consumption of its citizens, that commercialization of the media necessarily leads to democratization, and that the transnational, liberal dimensions of western media are crucial for democratic movements in Asia. Countries covered include Burma, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Table of Contents

1. Mediating Political Transition in Asia Krishna Sen 2. ‘Chinese Party Publicity Inc.’ Conglomerated: The Case of the Shenzhen Press Group Chin-Chuan Lee, Zhou He and Yu Huang 3. The Curse of the Everyday: Politics of Representation and New Social Semiotics in Post-Socialist China Wanning Sun 4. The Emergence of Polyphony in Chinese Television Documentaries Yingchi Chu 5. Vietnamese Cinema in the Era of Market Liberalization Chuong-Dai Hong Vo 6. ‘Not a rice-eating robot’: Freedom to Speak in Burma Nancy Hudson-Rodd 7. Revolutionary Scripts: Shan Insurgent Media Practice at the Thai-Burma Border Jane M. Ferguson 8. Thai Media and the Thaksin Ork Pai (Get Out!) Movement Glen Lewis 9. Framing the Fight Against Terror: Order versus Liberty in Singapore and Malaysia Cherian George 10. Regime, Media and the Reconstruction of a Fragile Consensus in Malaysia Zaharom Nain 11. Gestural Politics: Mediating the ‘New’ Singapore Terence Lee 12. Media and Politics in Regional Indonesia: The Case of Manado David T. Hill 13. Out There: Citizens, Audiences and the Mediatization of the 2004 Indonesian Election Philip Kitley.

Krishna Sen holds the chair of Asian Media at Curtin University of Technology and is a member of the International Advisory Board of the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University, Australia. She has published many books and articles on the Indonesia media, and other aspects of Indonesian culture and politics.

Terence Lee is an Associate Professor of Mass Communication in the School of Media Communication & Culture and a Research Fellow of the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University, Australia. He has published widely on various aspects of the media, politics and the creative industries in Singapore.

Media and Cultural Transformation in China
By Haiqing Yu
ISBN: 978-0-415-44755-3
Hardback
Routledge
February 2009
Pages: 240

This book examines the role played by the media in China’s cultural transformation in the early years of the 21st century. In contrast to the traditional view that sees the Chinese media as nothing more than a tool of communist propaganda, it demonstrates that the media is integral to China’s changing culture in the age of globalization, whilst also being part and parcel of the State and its project of re-imagining national identity that is essential to the post-socialist reform agenda. It describes how the Party-state can effectively use media events to pull social, cultural and political resources and forces together in the name of national rejuvenation. However, it also illustrates how non-state actors can also use reporting of media events to dispute official narratives and advance their own interests and perspectives. It discusses the implications of this interplay between state and non-state actors in the Chinese media for conceptions of identity, citizenship and ethics, identifying the areas of mutual accommodation and appropriation, as well as those of conflict and contestation. It explores these themes with detailed analysis of four important ‘media spectacles’: the media events surrounding the new millennium celebrations; the news reporting of SARS; the media stories about AIDS and SARS; and the media campaign war between the Chinese state and the Falun Gong movement.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Chinese Media and Modernity 2. Media Event: The New Millennium Celebration 3. Media Stories: The Politics of AIDS and SARS 4. News Event: The SARS Reportage 5. Media Citizenship 6. Media Campaigns: The War over Falun Gong 7. Media Spectacles and Cultural Transformation

About the Author(s)

Haiqing Yu holds a PhD in cultural/media studies from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests focus on contemporary Chinese media culture. She now works in the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of New South Wales.

International Media Communication in a Global Age
Edited by Guy Golan, Thomas Johnson, Wayne Wanta
ISBN: 978-0-415-99900-7
Paperback (also available in Hardback)
Routledge
September 2009
Pages: 488

Guy J. Golan is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication of Seton Hall University. He completed his Masters degree in New York University and his doctorate from the University of Florida. Golan’s research focuses on international communication, political communication, media effects and social media. Prior to entering academia, Golan worked as a political campaign professional in Israel.

Wayne Wanta holds the Welch-Bridgewater chair at the Oklahoma State University. He is a former president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, which awarded him the Krieghbaum Under-40 for outstanding contributions to teaching, research and service. He has more than 150 refereed journal articles and convention papers and has lectured and delivered research presentations in 32 different countries. His research has been published in Egypt, Poland, Slovakia, Germany and Argentina. Prior to teaching at Missouri, Florida, Oregon and Southern Illinois, he received Ph.D. and master’s degrees from the University of Texas and a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin.

Thomas J. Johnson is the Marshall and Sharleen Formby Regents Professor in convergent media and a professor of journalism in the College of Mass Communications at Texas Tech University. His research interests are public opinion and political communication research, particularly the role of new media in presidential elections. More recently, he have concentrated on how people use the Internet and its components such as blog and social network sites He has also studied what effect online media have on individuals and examined credibility of both U.S. and foreign media.

Media Events in a Global Age
Edited by Nick Couldry, Andreas Hepp, Friedrich Krotz
ISBN: 978-0-415-47711-6
Paperback (also available in Hardback)
Routledge
October 2009
Pages: 328

We live in an age where the media is intensely global and profoundly changed by digitalization. Not only do many media events have audiences who access them online, but additionally digital media flows are generating new ways in which media events can emerge. In times of increasingly differentiated media technologies and fragmented media landscapes, the ‘eventization’ of the media is increasingly important for the marketing and everyday appreciation of popular media texts.

The essays in this collection are organised into six thematically linked sections:

  • Media Events Rethought
  • The History and Future of the Media Event
  • Media Events in the Frame of Contemporary Social and Cultural Media Theory
  • Media Events and Everyday Identities
  • Media Events and Global Politics
  • Media Events and Cultural Contexts

Events covered include Celebrity Big Brother, 9/11, the Iraq war and World Youth Day 2005 to give readers an understanding of the major debates in this increasingly high-profile area of media and cultural research.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Media Events in Globalized Media Cultures Andreas Hepp and Nick Couldry Part 1: Media Events Rethought 2. Beyond Media Events: Disenchantment, Derailment, Disruption Daniel Dayan 3. 'No More Peace!': How Disaster, Terror and War Have Upstaged Media Events Elihu Katz and Tamar Liebes Part 2: The History and Future of the Media Event 4. Historical Perspectives on Media Events: A Comparison of the Lisbon Earthquake in 1755 and the Tsunami Catastrophe in 2004 Jürgen Wilke 5. From Media Events to Ritual to Communicative Form Eric W. Rothenbuhler 6. Media Spectacle and Media Events: Some Critical Reflections Douglas Kellner Part 3: Media Events in the Frame of Contemporary Social and Cultural Media Theory 7. Creating a National Holiday: Media Events, Symbolic Capital and Symbolic Power Friedrich Krotz 8. Modalities of Mediation Joost van Loon 9. Media Events, Eurovision and Societal Centers Göran Bolin Part 4: Media Events and Everyday Identities 10. Permanent Turbulence and Reparatory Work: A Dramaturgical Approach to Late Modern Television Peter Csigo 11. Media Events and Gendered Identities in South Asia - Miss World Going 'Deshi' Norbert Wildermuth 12. Media Event Culture and Lifestyle Management: Observations on the Influence of Media Events on Everyday Culture Udo Göttlich Part 5: Media Events and Global Politics 13. In Pursuit of a Global Image: Media Events as Political Communication Nancy K. Rivenburgh 14. 9/11 and the Transformation of Globalized Media Events Agnieszka Stepinska 15. Eventspheres as Discursive Forms: (Re-) Negotiating the 'Mediated Center' in New Network Cultures Ingrid Volkmer and Florian Deffner Part 6: Media Events and Cultural Contexts 16. Sports Events: The Olympics in Greece Roy Panagiotopoulou 17. Performing Global 'News': Indigenizing WTO as Media Event Lisa Leung 18. Religious Media Events: The Catholic "World Youth Day" as an Example of the Mediatization and Individualization of Religion Conclusion 19. The Media Events Debate: Moving to the Next Stage Stewart M. Hooverver.

Nick Couldry is Professor of Media & Communications at Goldsmith’s College, University of London, and director of its Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy. Previous publications include The Place of Media Power (2000), Media Rituals (2003), and Media Consumption and Public Engagement: Beyond the Presumption of Attention (2007).

Andreas Hepp is Professor of Communications at the University of Bremen, Germany. Recent publications include the co-edited volume Connectivity, Networks and Flows: Conceptualizing Contemporary Communications (2008).

Friedrich Krotz is Professor of Social Communication and Head of the Research Centre "Communication and Digital Media" at the University of Erfurt. He is the editor of Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research.

The Changing Faces of Journalism
Tabloidization, Technology and Truthiness
By Barbie Zelizer
ISBN: 978-0-415-77825-1
Paperback (also available in Hardback)
Routledge
May 2009
Pages: 192

The Changing Faces of Journalism: Tabloidization, Technology and Truthiness brings together an array of internationally renowned scholars who consider how contemporary journalism has wrestled with its changing parameters and how notions of tabloidization, technology and truthiness have altered our understanding of journalism. The collection is introduced with an essay by Barbie Zelizer and organized into three sections: how tabloidization affects the journalistic landscape; how technology changes what we think we know about journalism; and how ‘truthiness’ tweaks our understanding of the journalistic tradition. Short section introductions contextualise the essays and highlight the issues that they raise, creating a coherent study of journalism today.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Journalism’s Changing Faces Matter. Barbie Zelizer Part 1: On Tabloidization 1. Rethinking a Villain, Redeeming a Format: The Crisis and Cure in Tabloidization. Michael Serazio 2. Can Popularization Help the News Media?

Herbert J. Gans 3. Tears and Trauma in the News. Carolyn Kitch 4. Tabloidization: What Is It and Does It Really Matter? S. Elizabeth Bird Part 2: On Technology 5. The Impact of Technology on Journalism. Lokman Tsui 6. Materiality and Mimicry in Contemporary Journalistic Practice. Pablo Boczkowski 7. The Guardian of the Real: Journalism in the Time of the New Mind. Julianne H. Newton 8. Technology and the Individual Journalist: Agency Beyond Imitation and Change. Mark Deuze Part 3: On Truthiness 9. Rethinking Truth through Truthiness. Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt 10. Two Cheers for Positivism: Factual Knowledge in the Age of Truthiness. Michael Schudson 11. The Moment of Truthiness. James Ettema 12. Believable Fictions: Redactional Culture and the Will to Truthiness. Jeffrey Jones Afterword: The Troubling Evolution of Journalism. Peter Dahlgren.

Barbie Zelizer is the Raymond Williams Professor of Communication and Director of the Scholars Program in Culture and Communication at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. A former journalist, Zelizer is known for her work in the area of journalism, culture, memory and images, particularly in times of crisis. Previous publications for Routledge include Reporting War: Journalism in Wartime (2004) and Journalism After September 11 (2002) (both co-edited with Stuart Allan) and Explorations in Communication and History (2008).

The Anti-Intellectual Presidency
The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush
Elvin T. Lim
ISBN13: 9780195342642 ISBN10: 019534264X
Hardback
Oxford
May 2008
Pages: 208

Why has it been so long since an American president has effectively and consistently presented well-crafted, intellectually substantive arguments to the American public? Why have presidential utterances fallen from the rousing speeches of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, and FDR to a series of robotic repetitions of talking points and sixty-second soundbites, largely designed to obfuscate rather than illuminate?

In The Anti-Intellectual Presidency , Elvin Lim draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents' ability to communicate with the public. Lim argues that the ever-increasing pressure for presidents to manage public opinion and perception has created a "pathology of vacuous rhetoric and imagery" where gesture and appearance matter more than accomplishment and fact. Lim tracks the campaign to simplify presidential discourse through presidential and speechwriting decisions made from the Truman to the present administration, explaining how and why presidents have embraced anti-intellectualism and vague platitudes as a public relations strategy. Lim sees this anti-intellectual stance as a deliberate choice rather than a reflection of presidents' intellectual limitations. Only the smart, he suggests, know how to dumb down. The result, he shows, is a dangerous debasement of our political discourse and a quality of rhetoric which has been described, charitably, as "a linguistic struggle" and, perhaps more accurately, as "dogs barking idiotically through endless nights."

Political Polarization in America
Causes and Consequences
Nicol C. Rae
ISBN13: 9780195304107ISBN10: 0195304101
Oxford
Hardback
April 2010
Pages: 304

For over a decade, terms such as 'cultural wars', the '50-50 nation', and 'Red vs. Blue states' have suggested a high degree of political polarization in America. Similarly, news media outlets, such as Fox News and Air America Radio, are increasingly partisan in their coverage, 'narrow-casting' to two politically distinct audiences. Surprisingly, despite all the attention that has been paid to the 'war over values,' few studies have looked at evidence for or against polarization at either the elite or mass levels, and fewer still have examined the causes and motivations for this phenomenon. In Political Polarization in America, Rae presents evidence that America indeed suffers from a cultural and political divide - amongst its political elites. Radically divided public opinion leaders, including the national media, special interest groups, and the judiciary have created a political culture of extreme choices for voters. The polarization, in other words, Rae argues, is 'top-down', not, as many participating in the culture wars would have it, 'bottom-up.' Rae demonstrates how primary elections, electoral districting, the judicial and presidential nominating process, and other institutionalized facets of the American political system have also allowed powerful but unrepresentative groups to drive the American political process. Explaining how and why mass polarization is exacerbated by special interest groups who use party elites for their own purposes, this analysis explains our current unprecedented level of political conflict, confirms it, and, finally, looks at whether it will diminish or increase in the future. Rae concludes with institutional reforms that could help to bridge the ever-widening gap between the left and the right, including measures aimed at increasing the representativeness of national politics and reducing the politicization of the judiciary.

Nicol C. Rae, Professor, Department of Political Science, Florida International University.

The Obama Victory
How Media, Money, and Message Shaped the 2008 Election
Kate Kenski, Bruce Hardy and Kathleen Hall Jamieson
ISBN13: 9780195399554ISBN10: 0195399552
Oxford
Hardback
April 2010
Pages: 272

Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 presidential election will go down as one of the more pivotal in American history. Given America's legacy of racism, how could a relatively untested first-term senator with an African father defeat some of the giants of American politics?

In The Obama Victory , Kate Kenski, Bruce Hardy, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson draw upon the best voter data available, The National Annenberg Election Survey, as well as interviews with key advisors to each campaign, to illuminate how media, money, and messages shaped the 2008 election. In a crisp, incisive narrative, the authors identify the candidates' major themes--Maverick versus Mc-Same; Change versus Tax and Spend Liberal, etc.--and then apply them to the five main periods of the campaign: the early summer; the period from the vice presidential nominations through the conventions; the financial meltdown from mid-September to mid-October; the two weeks after the final debate; and the final week. Throughout, they explain how both sides worked the media to reinforce or combat images of McCain as too old and Obama as not ready; how Obama used a very effective rough-and-tumble radio and cable campaign that was largely unnoticed by the mainstream media; how the Vice Presidential nominees impacted the campaign; how McCain's age and Obama's race affected the final vote, and much more. Analyzing each nominee's broadcast, cable, and radio spending, the authors conclude that Obama's media campaign was more savvy than McCain's, and that early voting and the complete collapse of campaign finance reform will change elections for years to come.

Briskly written and filled with surprising insights, The Obama Victory goes beyond opinion to offer the most authoritative account available of precisely how and why Obama won the presidency.

Kate Kenski is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Arizona and was a member of the National Annenberg Election Survey team in 2000, 2004, and 2008. She has published over twenty articles in political communication and is co-author of Capturing Campaign Dynamics (OUP, 2004). Bruce Hardy is a doctoral candidate in the Annenberg School of Communication, a Senior Research Analyst in the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and a member of the 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey team. Kathleen Hall Jamieson is the Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and director of its Annenberg Public Policy Center. She has published many books, including Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment (OUP, 2008) and the award-winning Spiral of Cynicism: The Press and the Public Good (OUP, 1997), both co-authored with Joseph N. Cappella.

The Disappearing God Gap?
Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election
Corwin Smidt, Kevin den Dulk, Bryan Froehle, James Penning, Stephen Monsma and Douglas Koopman
ISBN13: 9780199734719ISBN10: 0199734712
Oxford
Hardback
January 2010
Pages: 304

After the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004, the ‘God Gap’ became a hotly debated political issue. Religious voters were seen as the key to Bush's victory, and Democrats began scrambling to reach out to them. Four years later, however, with the economy in a tailspin on election day, religion barely seemed to register on people's radar screens. In this book, a team of well-regarded scholars digs deeper to examine the role religion played in the 2008 campaign. They take a long view, placing the election in historical context and looking at the campaign as a whole, from the primaries through all the way through election day. At the heart of their analysis is data gleaned from a national survey conducted by the authors, in which voters were interviewed in the spring of 2008 and then re-interviewed after the election.

When the People Speak
Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation
James S. Fishkin
ISBN13: 9780199572106ISBN10: 0199572100
Hardback
September 2009
Pages: 256

All over the world, democratic reforms have brought power to the people, but under conditions where the people have little opportunity to think about the power that they exercise. In this book, James Fishkin combines a new theory of democracy with actual practice and shows how an idea that harks back to ancient Athens can be used to revive our modern democracies. The book outlines deliberative democracy projects conducted by the author with various collaborators in the United States, China, Britain, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Bulgaria, Northern Ireland, and in the entire European Union. These projects have resulted in the massive expansion of wind power in Texas, the building of sewage treatment plants in China, and greater mutual understanding between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. The book is accompanied by a DVD of "Europe in One Room" by Emmy Award-winning documentary makers Paladin Invision. The film recounts one of the most challenging deliberative democracy efforts with a scientific sample from 27 countries speaking 21 languages.

Typing Politics
The Role of Blogs in American Politics
Richard Davis
ISBN 139780195373769 ISBN100195373766
Oxford
Hardback (also in paperback)
April 2009
Pages: 256

The power of political blogs in American politics is now evident to anyone who follows it. In Typing Politics , Richard Davis provides a comprehensive yet concise assessment of the growing role played by political blogs and their relationship with the mainstream media. Through a detailed content analysis of the most popular political blogs--Daily Kos, Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, and Wonkette--he shows the degree to which blogs influence the traditional news media. Specifically, he compares the content of these blogs to four leading newspapers noted for their political coverage: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal , and The Washington Times . He explains how political journalists at these papers use blogs to inform their reportage and analyzes general attitudes about the role of blogs in journalism. Drawing on a national survey of political blog readers, Davis concludes with a novel assessment of the blog audience. Compact, accessible, and well-researched, Typing Politics will be an invaluable contribution to the literature on a phenomenon that has reshaped the landscape of political communication.

The Oxford Handbook of American Elections and Political Behavior
Edited by Jan E. Leighley
ISBN13: 9780199235476ISBN10: 0199235473
Oxford
Hardback
February 2010
Pages: 840

The Oxford Handbooks of American Politics is an eight-volume set of reference books offering authoritative and engaging critical overviews of the state of scholarship on American politics. Each volume focuses on a particular aspect of the field. The handbooks aim not just to report on the discipline, but also to shape it as scholars critically assess the current state of scholarship on a topic and propose directions in which it needs to move. The series is an indispensable reference for anyone working in American politics.

This handbook offers comprehensive coverage of the various theoretical approaches to the study of American elections and political behavior. The chapters are thoughtful and creative, providing broad overviews of intellectual developments and challenges, as well as incisive commentary on the accomplishments of, and challenges facing, scholars of American politics. Substantively, the fandbook includes chapters focusing on various approaches and issues in research design, political participation, vote choice, presidential and non-presidential elections, and issues, interests and elites as influences on individuals' political behaviour. Each of the chapters offers a working research bibliography, as well as retrospective evaluations of research and discussions of fruitful paths for future research.

The Oxford Handbook of American Political Parties and Interest Groups
Edited by L. Sandy Maisel and Jeffrey M. Berry
ISBN13: 9780199542628ISBN10: 0199542627
Oxford
Hardback
February 2010
Pages: 712

Part of the eight-volume set refered to above. Each volume focuses on a particular aspect of the field. The Oxford Handbook of American Political Parties and Interest Groups is a major new volume that will help scholars assess the current state of scholarship on parties and interest groups and the directions in which it needs to move. Never before has the academic literature on political parties received such an extended treatment. Twenty nine chapters critically assess both the major contributions to the literature and the ways in which it has developed. With contributions from most of the leading scholars in the field, the volume provides a definitive point of reference for all those working in and around the area. Equally important, the authors also identify areas of new and interesting research. These chapters offer a distinctive point of view, an argument about the successes and failures of past scholarship, and a set of recommendations about how future work ought to develop. This volume will help set the agenda for research on political parties and interest groups for the next decade.

General Editor for series is George C. Edwards III.

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Book Series Proposals

An invitation from Paradigm Publishers and David Paletz – Media & Power

David L. Paletz
Series Editor
Duke University

Paradigm Publishers announces a new book series that publishes work uniting media studies with studies of power. The series is described as being innovative and original. It features books that challenge, even transcend, conventional disciplinary boundaries, construing both media and power in the broadest possible terms. At the same time, books in the series are designed to fit into several different types of college courses: in political science, public policy, communication, journalism, media, history, film, sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies. Intended for the scholarly, text, and trade markets, the series is designed to attract authors and inspire and provoke readers.

Series editor David L. Paletz is Professor of Political Science at Duke University and former editor of Political Communication. He is known for his research on media and power and his encouragement of original work from others.

Published in the Series -

From Cronkite to Colbert: The Evolution of Broadcast News
Geoffrey Baym

Spinner in Chief: How Presidents Sell their Policies and Themselves
Stephen J. Farnsworth

Netroots: Online Progressives and the Transformation of American Politics
Matthew R. Kerbel (see the previous edition of Political Communication Report for an update on this from Professor Kerbel).

The Age of Oprah: Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era
Janice Peck

Sex and Violence: The Hollywood Censorship Wars
Tom Pollard

Art Museums: International Relations Where We Least Expect It
Christine Sylvester

Mousepads, Shoeleather and Hope: Lessons
from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics
Zephyr Teachout and Thomas Streeter, et al.

Forthcoming in the Series

Creative Destruction: Modern Media and the End of the Citizen
Andrew Calabrese

Evil and Silence
Richard Fleming

Media and Conflict: Escalating Evil
Cees J. Hamelink

Social Justice Documentaries: Strategies for Political Impact
David Whiteman

For more information or to submit a proposal, please e-mail David Paletz at: paletz@duke.edu

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Grants - Recovery Act research opportunities

In response to The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or Recovery Act, Grant-making agencies are posting Recovery Act-specific grant opportunities on Grants.gov.

Grants.gov is a central storehouse for information on over 1,000 grant programs and provides access to approximately $500 billion in annual awards.

It is possible to search and apply for grants from twenty six different federal agencies through the Grants.gov site. For grant opportunities related to the Recovery Act, use the Find Recovery Act Opportunities option on Grants.gov.

To reduce the burden of the extra volume resulting from the Recovery Act, select programs other than Grants.gov have been temporarily authorized to process grant applications.

The following agencies are accepting some or all applications:

  • Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Treasury
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • National Science Foundation
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

If you apply for a grant through one of these agencies, the Grants.gov Contact Center will not be able to address questions or issues relating to the grant; you will need to contact the agency official specified in the grant.
The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board is the public overseer on the use of Recovery Act funds. Earl E. Devaney, appointed by the President, serves as board chairman. The Board also includes twelve federal inspectors general from various government agencies. The board has two principal goals: to prevent and detect waste, fraud and mismanagement, and to provide citizens with transparency on how Recovery Act funds are being used by states, local governments and private recipients. The board will issue quarterly and annual reports on its oversight findings and provide advice to government agencies. The board maintains Recovery.gov which provides information on agency plans and programs and disbursements. Beginning in October 2009, reports from recipients of stimulus funds will be posted on Recovery.gov.

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ICA Paper Reviews Required

If you are interested in volunteering to review papers for the ICA Political Communication Division, acting as a session chair or acting as a respondent for the ICA Convention in Singapore, June 22-26, 2010, please visit the link below.

Volunteers for paper reviewing do not need to be attending the conference. Your survey answers will help match your expertise with the topics and methods of paper submissions, and will be used when assigning reviewers, chairs, and discussants during program planning. The information you provide is confidential.

The survey is at:

http://www.icahdq.org/cgi-shl/TWServer.exe?Run:SVYPOLCOMM

Completing the survey should take three to five minutes. It will be of great help to us when working on review assignments.

Thank you for your help.

Yariv Tsfati
Vice Chairman
Political Communication Division
International Communication Association;
Department of Communication
University of Haifa

Israel ytsfati@com.haifa.ac.il

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Tracking the life and death of news

Bill Steele

As more and more news appears on the Internet as well as in print, it becomes possible to map the global flow of news by observing it online. Using this strategy, Cornell University computer scientists have managed to track and analyze the "news cycle" -- the way stories rise and fall in popularity. Jon Kleinberg, the Tisch University Professor of Computer Science at Cornell, postdoctoral researcher Jure Leskovec and graduate student Lars Backstrom tracked 1.6 million online news sites, including 20,000 mainstream media sites and a vast array of blogs, over the three-month period leading up to the 2008 presidential election -- a total of 90 million articles, one of the largest analyses anywhere of online news. They found a consistent rhythm as stories rose into prominence and then fell off over just a few days, with a "heartbeat" pattern of handoffs between blogs and mainstream media. In mainstream media, they found, a story rises to prominence slowly then dies quickly; in the blogosphere, stories rise in popularity very quickly but then stay around longer, as discussion goes back and forth. Eventually though, almost every story is pushed aside by something newer. 

"The movement of news to the Internet makes it possible to quantify something that was otherwise very hard to measure -- the temporal dynamics of the news," said Kleinberg. "We want to understand the full news ecosystem, and online news is now an accurate enough reflection of the full ecosystem to make this possible. This is one [very early] step toward creating tools that would help people understand the news, where it's coming from and how it's arising from the confluence of many sources." 

The researchers also say their work suggests an answer to a longstanding question: Is the "news cycle" just a way to describe our perception of what's going on in the media, or is it a real phenomenon that can be measured? They opt for the latter, and offer a mathematical explanation of how it works. The research was presented at the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining Conference June 28-July 1 in Paris. The ideal, Kleinberg said, would be to track "memes," or ideas, through cyberspace, but deciding what an article is about is still a major challenge for computing. The researchers sidestepped that obstacle by tracking quotations that appear in news stories, since quotes remain fairly consistent even though the overall story may be presented in very different ways by different writers. Even quotes may change slightly or "mutate" as they pass from one article to another, so the researchers developed an algorithm that could identify and group similar but slightly different phrases. In simple terms, the computer identified short phrases that were part of longer phrases, using those connections to create "phrase clusters." Then they tracked the volume of posts in each phrase cluster over time. In the August and September data they found threads rising and falling on a more or less weekly basis, with major peaks corresponding to the Democratic and Republican conventions, the "lipstick on a pig" discussion, rising concern over the financial crisis and discussions of a bailout plan. 

The slow rise of a new story in the mainstream, the researchers suggest, results from imitation -- as more sites carried a story, other sites were more likely to pick it up. But the life of a story is limited, as new stories quickly push out the old. A mathematical model based on the interaction of imitation and recency predicted the pattern fairly well, the researchers said, while predictions based on either imitation or recency alone couldn't come close. Watching how stories moved between mainstream media and blogs revealed a sharp dip and rise the researchers described as a "heartbeat." When a story first appears, there is a small rise in activity in both spheres; as mainstream activity increases, the proportion blogs contribute becomes small; but soon the blog activity shoots up, peaking an average of 2.5 hours after the mainstream peak. Almost all stories started in the mainstream. Only 3.5 percent of the stories tracked appeared first dominantly in the blogosphere and then moved to the mainstream. The mathematical model needs to be refined, the researchers said, and they suggested further study of how stories move between sites with opposing political orientation. "It will be useful to further understand the roles different participants play in the process," the researchers concluded, "as their collective behavior leads directly to the ways in which all of us experience news and its consequences."

The research was supported by the MacArthur Foundation, a Google Research Grant, a Yahoo Research Alliance Grant and grants from the National Science Foundation. 

Bill Steele is Technology and Electronic Information Editor, Cornell University.

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