The intensifying phone hacking scandal enveloping Rupert
Murdoch's media empire was the top story on Twitter for the second week in a
row, with Twitter users once again aiming sharp criticism at the media mogul's
For the week of July 11-15, 19% of the news links on Twitter
were about the scandal, according to the New Media Index from the Pew
Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. While still the top
story, that is down considerably from the
previous week when the subject accounted for 53% of news links-more
attention than any topic has generated in the NMI in the past 10 months.
Twitter users commenting on the scandal showed little
sympathy for Murdoch or his employees. "My
condolences to the #NOTW
workers who've lost their jobs. I'm off to hack their relatives' phones to see
how they're coping," wrote Fort Knox.
The phone hacking furor generated significant headlines in the
mainstream news as the No. 2 story from July
11-17, filling up 12% of the newshole. And a discussion of the scandal on a
BBC talk show proved to be the second most popular news video last week.
As is often the case, news about Google also figured
prominently in the Twitter news agenda. The No. 2 subject, at 16% of the links
about the demographics of Google+
users, a new social networking site that is expected to compete with
Facebook. One story found that early users were overwhelmingly male.
Another story about Google, specifically how search
engines may be changingthe
way our memories work-by altering the way our brains organize and store
information-came in fourth with 9% of links. The findings suggested that people
have less short-term recall of information that can be accessed online.
Tweeters focused on several story lines related to the
rapidly evolving hacking scandal that led to the closing of the News of the
World tabloid, Murdoch's dropping his bid to buy the BSkyB television operation
and the resignation of several of his key employees.
The top story on blogs for the week, with 22% of links, was
about a federal government ruling that marijuana
has no accepted medical use and should remain classified as a highly
dangerous drug, despite some states' approval of marijuana as a treatment for
Much of the response to the story was in support of
legalizing marijuana and belief that the ruling was misguided.
"It's such an open-and-shut case, even Jeff Spicoli could
comprehend it," wrote Andrew Belonsky at death
+ taxes, referring to the stoner character from the 1982 teen movie,
Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
In second place (11%) was a story about a politician in
California proposing that 13, mostly conservative counties, break away to form
a separate state of "South
California." Bloggers were generally conservatives who supported the idea,
although a few liberal bloggers found it comical.
In third place (11%) was a story about a California
state prison surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Rohlfing, who has an annual salary of
$777,423, despite not being allowed to treat inmates because medical
supervisors do not trust him. Instead he has been relegated to reviewing paper
medical histories. Most of the responses were from bloggers who focused on
government waste and were angry about Rohlfing's compensation.
The No. 4 story was about the debt ceiling debate in
Washington D.C., a subject
that has been a major one in
month, but has not garnered much attention on blogs or on Twitter. It generated
10% of blog news links for the week, the first time the debt ceiling debate has
made the NMI since May
30-June 3, when it accounted for 8% of the links.
The most notable response came from PunditKitchen,
which was excited that the Debt Ceiling Cat meme could once again return. "In
other news, this
meme is totally relevant again! Yay!"
Debt Ceiling Cat is a derivative of Ceiling Cat, a lolcat who
is seen as a benevolent being, as opposed to the evil Basement Cat. A lolcat is an image of a cat with text
indicating what the cat is thinking. It is a prevalent internet meme.
Despite topping the Twitter agenda for the past two weeks
and registering prominently in the mainstream media, the Murdoch media scandal
has not been among the top stories on blogs in that period, according to the
NMI. An additional PEJ check of several
other blog tracking sites also revealed minimal to modest interest.
The Marijuana Ruling
The federal government's decision to keep marijuana
classified as a highly dangerous drug provoked an angry reaction among bloggers.
"Talk about being a buzzkill. The federal government really
knows how to ruin a good time," wrote HAHA,
"Whoaaah dude, like seriously?" joked Seth Rotherham at 2
Others took a more serious look at the issue, including the
"It could bring in so much revenue, it's being smoked
anyways by a huge section of the population, and it's MUCH less worse than
smoking cigarettes or pounding beers... Plus, the Fed would then be able to move
law enforcement money in the War on Drugs to fighting the drugs that are
actually super harmful, like all your snorting powders and injectable fun
times. Yeah?" wrote Byron Kho at Chatting
"The government claims that marijuana lacks safety under
medical supervision but that's because it's been ruled an illegal substance.
You can't put it under medical supervision if mere possession will land your
ass in prison for many years. The thing I never understood was the simple fact
that most research indicates that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. To me
it would only be logical if a substance less dangerous than another currently legal
substance were also legal," wrote Christopher Burg at A
Geek With Guns.
"Still, if an appeals judgment were based on scientific
evidence, rather than political considerations this time around, it's easy to
imagine a very different outcome," wrote Maia Szalavitz at Fraternal
Order of The Dragon.
On YouTube, a tragic accident during a game at the Rangers
Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, drew the most attention last week. Fan Shannon
Stone fell out of the stands head-first while trying to catch a foul ball
tossed by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and later died.
The No. 2 video featured a discussion from the BBC program Newsnight
focusing on the British phone hacking scandal, which was the top story on
Twitter last week. During the heated debate, comedian Steve Coogan accused
former News of the World deputy features editor Paul McMullen of being "morally
bankrupt" and "a walking PR disaster." McMullen was trying to defend the
5. Video of a Spanish-language news report
on the murder of an Argentine folk singer, Facundo Cabral, by two unknown
gunmen who intercepted his car in Guatemala City
About the New Media Index
The New Media Index is a weekly report that captures
the leading commentary of blogs and social media sites focused on news and
compares those subjects to that of the mainstream press.
PEJ's New Media Index is a companion to its weekly News Coverage
Index. Blogs and other new media are an important part of creating today's news
information narrative and in shaping the way Americans interact with the news.
The expansion of online blogs and other social media sites has allowed
news-consumers and others outside the mainstream press to have more of a role
in agenda setting, dissemination and interpretation. PEJ aims to find out what
subjects in the national news the online sites focus on, and how that compared
with the narrative in the traditional press.
A prominent Web tracking site Icerocket,
which monitors millions of blogs, uses the links to articles embedded on these
sites as a proxy for determining what these subjects are. Using this tracking
process as a base, PEJ staff compiles the lists of links weekday each day. They
capture the top five linked-to stories on each list (25 stories each week), andreads, watches or listens to these posts and
conducts a content analysis of their subject matter, just as it does for the
mainstream press in its weekly News Coverage Index.
It follows the same coding
methodology as that of the NCI. Note:
When the NMI was launched in January 2009, another web-tracking site Technorati was similarly
monitoring blogs and social media. PEJ originally captured both Technorati's
and Icerocket's daily aggregation. In recent months, though, this component of
Technorati's site has been down with no indication of when it might
The priorities of the bloggers are measured in terms of
percentage of links. Each time a news blog or social media Web page adds a link
to its site directing its readers to a news story, it suggests that the author
of the blog places at least some importance on the content of that article. The
user may or may not agree with the contents of the article, but they feel it is
important enough to draw the reader's attention to it. PEJ measures the topics
that are of most interest to bloggers by compiling the quantitative information
on links and analyzing the results.
For the examination of the links from Twitter,
PEJ staff monitors the tracking site Tweetmeme. Similar to Icerocket,
Tweetmeme measures the number of times a link to a particular story or blog
post is tweeted and retweeted. Then, as we do with Icerocket, PEJ captures
the five most popular linked-to pages each weekday under the heading of "news"
as determined by Tweetmeme's method of categorization. And as with the other
data provided in the NMI, the top stories are determined in terms of percentage
of links. (One minor difference is that Tweetmeme offers the top links over the
prior 24 hours while the list used on Icerocket offers the top links over the
previous 48 hours.)