Alert the Media! We Found the Journalists!

Where in the world is…

It has taken an entire election campaign, but it looks like NS journalists are finally joining the online discussion about the Nova Scotia election and are beginning to actively interact with Twitter users.

In our first blog post and in a Sun TV Battleground interview we noted the absence of journalists and the main stream media among the most active Twitter users on #NSpoli. In other provincial political discussions on Twitter such as #BCpoli and #ONpoli, as well as within #CDNpoli, journalists and mainstream media Twitter accounts are very well represented. In the #NSpoli community prior to the election and during the first three weeks of the writ period, journalists were not highly central, they were not talked to or about much on #NSpoli. But closer to the election day, the story has changed.

The graph below represents the #NSpoli network from mid-July to the morning of October 8 – election day that consists of 5,219 Twitter accounts. Just one week ago the graph looked very different. There were distinct clusters for each of the three major political parties, a cluster in which a union representative was most central, and a relatively low representation of journalists among “central” actors.

Twitter communication network of 5.219 accounts who tweeted with #NSpoli hashtag between July 12 – Oct 8, 2013 (morning). The network is built based on nearly 70,000 tweets.


In this more recent graph, we see a large component in the center where we find accounts like @ctvatlantic and @chronicleherald. While both accounts were mentioned sporadically over the course of the election, neither had been particularly central, certainly not compared to the party leaders. To be sure, the number of tweets mentioning parties and leaders still outweighs that of any mainstream media account, but a change is undeniable. These accounts, and others linked to specific journalists and outlets are now a more integral part of that core group.

Interestingly, there is one grouping that has become more dense and distinct in the #NSPoli discussion. The graph below is a cut down version of the #NSpoli network and shows only this one cluster.


The cluster near the bottom is, roughly, made up of national media and federal politicians which links to the larger main component. @Sunnewsnetwork and @davidakin are the most central accounts in this group.

#NSpoli National Media (as of Oct 8, 2013)
“Zoomed In” Low Cluster of the Communication Network above

National media, or at least those who have engaged with the Nova Scotia election have now formed their own cluster, something that only came about in a big way over the final few days of campaigning. Why these national actors have joined the discussion on a decidedly regional discussion is interesting and will require more analysis.

Leaders and Their Followers

Over the course of the campaign dense clusters of users formed around each of the three main political parties and their leaders. A cluster around union organizers also formed. There were small groupings of accounts from elsewhere – a small pocket of Newfoundlanders, a grouping of #CDNpoli enthusiasts, federal politicians, etc.

Today, the NDP and Liberal groups have merged into one big central mass, in fact @premierdexter, @stephenmcneil, @nsndp, and @nsliberal are all occupying nearly the exact same space on the graph. For those keeping track, @nsndp is still the most central in this community. 

The @nspc and @jamieballie accounts are still found in their own cluster, but even that is being drawn into the center mass and is relatively less isolated in the #NSPoli communication network.

The graph below shows the main cluster which “houses” the NDP and Liberal accounts (yellow and green) and the cluster off to the bottom right (turquoise) in which we find the PC accounts.

#NSpoli "parties" clusters (as of Oct 8, 2013)


What does all of this mean?

Well, it means that in the frenzy of the final few days of campaigning, Twitter users, regardless of party or political role (i.e. journalist, candidate, volunteer, etc.) were all chatting to, and about, a wide range of others. The partisan camps have been vacated and users are pouring into the commons. We know that within that commons journalists have piped up alongside partisan supporters, candidates, parties, and interest groups. The question remains, are average citizens engaging in this political chat? We haven’t got much evidence to suggest they are (at least based on our preliminary observation of the data). And so, how to engage less politically active social media users and how to bring them into the conversation remains a challenge for campaigns.

Written by Elizabeth Dubois (@lizdubois) with contribution from Anatoliy Gruzd (@gruzd) and Philip Mai (@phmai).