Microblogging and the News: Political Elites and the Ultimate Retweet

Microblogging and the News: Political Elites and the Ultimate Retweet

Kevin Wallsten (California State University – Long Beach, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6062-5.ch007
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A particularly important question that has yet to be addressed about microblogging is the extent to which tweeting from politicians influences the traditional media's news coverage. This chapter seeks to address this oversight by tracking print, broadcast, and online news mentions of tweets from political elites during the five-and-a-half years since microblogging started. Consistent with previous research into “new media” effects and journalistic sourcing patterns, the authors find that although reporters, pundits, and bloggers are increasingly incorporating tweets into their news discussions, the group of Twitterers who are consistently quoted is small and drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of nationally recognizable political leaders. In addition to contributing to the emerging literature on Twitter, the analysis presented here suggests a new way of conceptualizing influence on the site. Rather than focusing strictly on Twitter-centric measures of message diffusion, the findings of this chapter suggest that researchers should begin to consider the ways that tweets can shape political discourse by spreading beyond the fairly narrow world of microblogging.
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Despite the rapidly expanding popularity of tweeting among members of the American public, political scientists, mass communications scholars and journalism researchers have devoted fairly little attention to explicitly political microblogging by average Internet users. Indeed, apart from the nearly 40 research notes written by Bob Boynton on the dynamics of various political message streams within Twitter4, there have been only two case studies of politically oriented microblogging – a minute-by-minute analysis of tweeted responses during a controversial BBC Question time in the UK (Anstead & O’Loughlin, 2011) and a one week, examination of tweets during the 2010 special Senate election in Massachusetts (Metaxas & Mustafaraj, 2010).

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