AUDIENCE AGENCY THROUGH TWITTER: A CASE STUDY OF THE ROHINGYA CRISIS 2017 →
AUDIENCE AGENCY THROUGH TWITTER: A CASE STUDY OF THE ROHINGYA CRISIS 2017 →
AUDIENCE AGENCY THROUGH TWITTER: A CASE STUDY OF THE ROHINGYA CRISIS 2017 2018 LAURA BRANDÉN SUPERVISOR: ANDERS HOG HANSEN EXAMINER: MICHAEL KRONA EXAMINATION DATE: 19 JUNE 2018 GRADE AWARDED: B A MASTERS THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FUFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF MEDIA COMMUNICATIONS IN THE FACULTY OF CULTURE AND SOCIETY | MALMO UNIVERSITY
1 ABSTRACT LAURA BRANDÉN AUDIENCE AGENCY THROUGH TWITTER: A CASE STUDY OF THE ROHINGYA CRISIS 2017 (Under the direction of Anders Hog Hansen) Within the last two decades, social media has grown to becoming an integrated part of everyday life and along with it profound changes to how audiences can interact with news. Prior to web 2.0, audiences had limited selections when consuming news through their medium of choice and little possibility to interact with news organisations directly. With the advent of social media, audience are now able to personally curate their media consumption and fully interact with news organisations and the articles they post online. Because of this increased influence, audiences can now impose their agency on published new stories by liking, retweet, and discuss current new stories. This paper offers an in-depth study of how audiences can exert their agency over news publishing during September 2017. Utilizing the spread of the Rohingya Crisis of 2017 as a case study, this paper analyses in what ways audience agency influenced the new cycle during September 2017. This said, research conducted will utilise a two-step process for analysing the causes and effects of this phenomenon; a content analysis and an audience analysis; thus, a focus will be placed on understanding shifts in newspaper publishing in relation to audience engagement.
2 TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF TABLES … . 6 LIST OF DIAGRAMS … … 6 LIST OF FIGURES . . 6 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION … . 7 1.1 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY … … 9 CHAPTER 2: BACKGROUND . … 10 2.1 ROHINGYA CRISIS . . 10 2.2 TWITTER … … 11 2.3 JOURNALISM IN A TIME OF SOCIAL MEDIA … . 12 CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH QUESTION … . 13 CHAPTER 4: LITERATURE REVIEW … … 15 4.1 ACTIVE RECIPIENTS OR PROSUMERS … … 15 4.2 TRADITIONAL JOURNALISM PRACITCES IN A TIME OF SOCIAL MEDIA . . 17 4.3 NATURALISING TWITTER … . 18 CHAPTER 5: ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK … . 20 5.1 STRUCTURE VERSUS AGENCY . . 21 5.2 USES AND GRATIFICATION THEORY … … 23 5.3 AUDIENCE RESEARCH … … 24 i. AUDIENCE FRAGMENTATION . . 24 ii. AUDIENCE DISSEMINATION . . 25 iii. AUDIENCE FEEDBACK … … 25 CHAPTER 6: METHODOLOGY, METHOD AND SCOPE OF EMPIRICAL DATA . . 25 6.1 LITERARY CONTEXT ANALYSIS … . 26 6.2 CONTENT ANALYSIS FRAMEWORK . . 28 6.3 CODING CATEGORIES … … 30 6.4 ARTICLES FOR CONTENT ANALYSIS … . 30 6.5 DATA COLLECTION AND SAMPLE DETERMINATION . . 31 I. PUBLISHED NEWS … . 32 II. TWITTER . . 36 6.6 VALIDITY … . 36 CHAPTER 7: ETHICS . … 37 7.1 INFORMED CONSENT … … 37 7.2 PUBLIC DOMAIN DATA … . 37 7.3 COPYRIGHT . . 38 CHAPTER 8: PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS OF RESULTS . . 39 8.1 CONTENT ANALYSIS … … 43 i. RESEARCH QUESTION 1 … … 43 ii. RESEARCH QUESTION 2 … … 48 8.2 AUDIENCE RESEARCH … … 49 i. RESEARCH QUESTION 3 … … 50 a) AUDIENCE FRAGMENTATION … … 50 b) AUDIENCE DISSEMINATION … … 51 c) AUDIENCE FEEDBACK . . 51 CHAPTER 9: CONCLUSION … . 53 CITE LIST … . 54
3 LIST OF FIGURES 6 METHODOLOGY, METHOD AND SCOPE OF EMPIRICAL DATA 6.1 … … 31 8 PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS OF RESULTS 8.1 . . 45 8.2 . . 46 8.3 . . 46 LIST OF DIAGRAMS 6 METHODOLOGY, METHOD AND SCOPE OF EMPIRICAL DATA 6.1 . . 31 6.2 . . 34 6.3 . . 35 6.4 . . 35 8 PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS OF RESULTS 8.1 . . 40 8.2 . . 40 8.3 . . 41 8.4 . . 42 8.5 . . 42 8.6 … … 43 LIST OF TABLES 6. METHODOLOGY, METHOD AND SCOPE OF EMPIRICAL DATA 6.1 . . 33 8 PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS OF RESULTS 8.1 . . 44 8.2 . . 52
4 INTRODUCTION “Over the last years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same. The world is waiting and the Rohingya Muslims are waiting.” - Malala Yousafzai, via Twitter (2017) In 2017 the world was again shocked by the realisation of an ongoing genocide of a minority population. Up- until this point, reports had been published from several NGO’s and INGO’s within the international political system about the developing atrocities in Myanmar1 , however it wasn’t until September 2017 that articles about the ongoing genocide was prominent within mainstream media (Rannard, 2017). This sudden interest in the emerging crisis was so instantaneous within social media platforms, that questions were raised regarding what variables lead to this peak of interest and whether these were dependant on each other. Twitter has been the subject of extensive previous research on its very apparent inclusion in modern journalism and the production of mass social movements originating from the platform. In particular, contemporary academic literature has focused mainly on citizen journalism and/or how journalists are using twitter as an extension of their profession.
One of the central questions within media research is ‘who controls the news?’, in which specifically research within this field aim to understand to what extent external actors, as well as actors within news organisations, can affect the published news content (Johansson & Odén, 2017; Strömbäck & Nord, 2007). Factors such as audience dissemination, audience fragmentation, crowdsourcing and audience feedback now affect the way editors must think when selecting material to publish to accommodate the effects of external actors. This said, it remains important to acknowledge that Twitter exists alongside other more traditional forms of news consumption, and as a platform for consuming news Twitter only contributes a fraction of the total news consumption across all platforms. However, in 2018, Twitter reached 330 million users, of which 75% follow a journalist or news organisation on the platform. Because of increased availability of choice, Twitter users are enabled to decide who and what to follow and curate their news flow and in turn, exert their agency on their news consumption. Through personal news consumption, along with shifting journalism practices, Twitter audiences are now able disrupt traditional news patterns. As such, by analysing how audiences interact with news content through Twitter, and the resulting effects on published news articles; this thesis primarily aims to bring further attention to the ongoing debate if audience have or have no any influence over what news are published by news organisations, as it is still emerging as a research field. 1 The attacks in Myanmar are centred around the Rakhine state, an area seen by Rohingya as their traditional land, and they have resided at this area for hundreds of years.
5 The motivation behind this research stems from the sudden and explosive interest for the Rohingya that emerged in 2017. The year earlier, in December 2016, over a thousand homes of the Rohingya had been burnt down by security forces and several hundred individuals had been killed. However, it wasn’t until early 2017 that official reports from human rights groups stated that 90 000 individuals had been displaced from their homes (Alal O Dulal Collective, 2017). And while several reports where released by official news bodies, it wasn’t until mid-September 2017 that coverage was picked up and escalated within social media platforms. This emerging scale of interest and evolution of coverage is important especially when considering the Rohingya community has faced wide scale human rights abuses for decades, and videos have surfaced where militant nationalist monks, such as the 969, have vocalised hate speech and called for their eradication (AP Archive, 2015)2 . This curiosity becomes even more prominent when considering the ongoing involvement by the UN and human rights groups, and the large scale historic persecution of the group has been a long known factor and yet, not within public interest or general domain until late 2017 (UNHCR, 2018). This said, research within the paper aim to; • Build upon this literature by focusing on the relationship between newspaper and social media, and how this relationship influences what news are published; • Focus on how Twitter as a social media platform has changed the modern understanding of the audience from being passive recipients to actively involved consumers and producers. Specifically, it will focus on the now somewhat assumed, yet debated, agency that audiences have over their own news consumption and influence over what news are published in the media; • Not only analyse how media is deterministic, but also explore an emerging field of audience research through the context of news consumption on social media; • And finally, analyse the relationship between audience behaviour on social media and international PURPOSE OF THE CASE STUDY This project aims to understand social media, and social media responses to the victims of the Rohingya Crisis. It’s goal is to expand upon the understanding and resulting pact of international news platforms through continued use of social media to publish and popularise ongoing conflict and escalated societal issues - commonly referred to as ‘crisis news’.
The Rohingya crisis has been disproportionately represented in levels of media coverage compared to Black Lives Matter and the Occupy movement. At the core, these three movements are focused on governmental 2 The 969 is a Buddhist movement in Myanmar run by militant monks with strong anti-Muslim sentiment. The leader of the group has called himself the “Burmese bin Laden”. Reports have found that the violent attacks, in Rakhine state 2012, which lead to 192 dead and 140 000 individuals displaced, where incited by the nationalist monks associated with this group (Marshall, 2013).
6 issues that are affecting minorities or certain levels within society. Just as Occupy and Black Lives the Rohingya crisis grew in recognition on social media as a wide scale issue that affected the international society at its core. Thus, concurrency of the Rohingya crisis as the latest crisis to garner social media recognition is very important; as unlike other viral movements such as the black lives matter and the occupy wall street, the Rohingya crisis has not gain the same level of research interest.
This lack of social media coverage is critical to the solution of the crisis and gaining a resolve to an international issue by making the government of Myanmar recognise this misstep and recognise that the Rohingya are legitimate citizens that deserve to be treated as such for the first time ever. hence this said, the purpose of this study is to the explore the effects of social media, not only in regard to the Rohingya, but also the contrast between news bias impact on social media, and social medias reverse effect through virilization. BACKGROUND THE ROHINGYA CRISIS The Rohingya crisis is a long-standing humanitarian crisis, that is in effect the government of Myanmar trying to forcefully displace the Rohingya community out of the Rakhine state, by systematically attacking, and decimating the population settlements and peoples through grave human rights abuses, in an attempt to force the community out.
On the 25th of August 2017 in Myanmar, a group of Rohingya militants allegedly attacked a police post, killing 12 police. Within a month, half a million individuals of the Muslim minority community fled to bordering Bangladesh to escape persecution (Lone & Marshall, 2017). This emerging crisis astounded global communities that a genocide could happen under the watch of Nobel Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi3 , which resulted in petitions for her to be stripped of this honour (Agence France-Presse, 2017). However, despite this emergent global ‘shock’, the persecution against the Rohingya did not start in 2017, but instead a pattern of oppression can be dated back to mid-20th century.
There has been prolonged involvement by international organisations, such as the UN, within the Rakhine state due to previous condemnations and interventions for previous Rohingya population mistreatment felonies by the militarised junta government. As such, the UN has consistently worked with the affected Rohingya communities to increase their social standing within the Myanmar society in addition to facilitating discussions with the current government to legitimise the group as citizens of Myanmar. The narratives 3 Aung San Suu Kyi won a Nobel Peace prize in 1991 “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights” (The Nobel Foundation, 2014).
7 portrayed by these NGOs regarding the crisis is not supported by the current government in Myanmar who adamantly argues that the violence is perpetrated by military guerrilla movements within the Rohingya themselves, and not the government While the Rohingya mainly reside in Myanmar, they can be found spread across Asia through migration and refugee movements. However, within Myanmar, they are not recognised as legitimate citizens, or even a native minority which has led to numerous negative factors including accessibility and inclusivity affecting the community daily (Mahmood et. al., 2016). The Rohingya are being internally resettled, stripped of their customary lands (used for agriculture) which has directly lead to malnourishment and decline public health (Staples, 2012). Any Rohingya individual who violate the restrictions imposed upon them are subjected to systematic sexual violence, torture, forced labour and even imprisonment (Mahmood et. al., 2016). While there is no official state religion in Myanmar most of the population adhere to strict Buddhism, and there is clear religious reasoning behind the prosecutions - the military state even sought to further the disadvantage religious minorities within the state by elevating the status of Buddhism (U.S Department of State, 2009; Staples, 2012). Which would further decrease the standing of the Rohingya community in Myanmar. TWITTER On Twitter’s “Getting Started Page” it reads: ‘follow everything from breaking news and entertainment, to sports, politics, and everyday interests. Then, join the conversation’ (Twitter, 2018). This statement highlights what much of literature has researched; Twitter’s ability to be the first platform for breaking news. The website has grown from a place where people shared unfiltered snippets of their lives, to a platform that people actively engage in political discussion and societal critique, keep up with their favourite celebrities, engage with events, and more importantly for this thesis, follow the news. It has grown to now becoming one of the most popular social networking sites in the world.
In accordance to Boyd and Ellison (2007:2011), Social Networking Sites (SNS) are defined as web-based services that allow individuals to: 1. Construct a public or semi-public proﬁle within a bounded system; 2. Articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection; 3. View and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site. There are many SNS’s available on the internet today, and within this scope Twitter is considered a “micro- blogging” platform. The app, which was originally designed for mobile phone use, allows users to instantaneously “tweet” a 280-character message to their followers, or choose to retweet a tweet written by another user – instantly sharing it to their own followers (Twitter, 2018). By including so called “hashtags”
8 users can navigate the website and locate other tweets using the same hashtag, for example users where able to read more about the Rohingya crisis by searching for, or directly click on #rohingyacrisis. The site also keeps track of “trending topics” which notify users what hashtags are being used most frequently and allows users to quickly be notified of breaking news as they emerge. Unlike the curated trending topics found on Facebook, the trending feature is dependent on audience engagement - how many tweets a hashtag receives within a given time frame.
Arguably, the way audiences are interacting with news is changing as we know it. In 2018, Twitter had 330 million active users and over 75% actively follow newspapers and/or journalists (Great Speculations, 2017; Reynolds, 2014.) Notably, a correlation has shown that users who follow news outlets and journalists online are also more likely to be active daily on the site, and twice as likely to tweet daily (Reynolds, 2014). For example, the combine accounts of the New York Times amount to over 42 million followers and averages about 100 tweets per day (Twittercounter, 2018). However, this availability of choice in who to follow, allows users to decide what they want to follow, and what account’s tweet information that they find interesting. These audience actions lead to audience shifting away from mass media outlets that are not fulfilling their information needs. Thus, this audience fragmentation is then forcing news organisations to directly target the information desires of their users and rethink what content they publish.
JOURNALISM IN A TIME OF SOCIAL MEDIA While global newsrooms may be using social media extensively in their work, they also rely on technology for their organisation to function. This said, technological advances have fundamentally altered what it means to be a journalist, now they must always be available on social media and constantly navigate their social media platforms to keep touch with their audiences and look for trends in audience behaviour and potential news stories. More importantly, social media have affected news production in three main ways: dissemination, crowdsourcing, audience feedback (Ferruci, 2018).
Firstly, social media has opened the channels that allows audiences to access news through their social media accounts, they now receive news from friends, family and news organisations straight through their social media feeds. Due to this, modern audiences are sharing and spreading news articles that they find interesting through their social media channels, which now directly affects the audience counts on news websites. This act of sharing and tweeting about news stories through personal social channels is called dissemination. Even though majority of news online is still directly access through the news websites themselves, social media is quickly growing to becoming an important source of traffic for these websites, with 9% of total traffic being attributed to social media in 2013. It is therefore growing increasingly important to create news that audience will want to share through their channels (Weeks & Holbert, 2013).
9 Secondly, modern journalists are increasingly relying on crowdsourcing4 for their information through social media by gathering sources, stories, quotes, or general information about an event, but they may also use the platform to gain a general understanding of how the public feel towards specific events, stories and content (Poell & Borra, 2011; Howe, 2008). Twitter has grown to becoming an indispensable platform for journalists when they want to get information about breaking news as quickly as possible. For example, a Twitter user live tweeted the apprehension of Osama Bin Laden while it was happening - which would then become the most accurate detailing of the event that news organisations had until the official statement was released (Olsson, 2011).
Lastly, social media’s feedback mechanisms are allowing audiences to exert their agency over news stories. Storied that gain higher ‘likes’, retweets, or reach trending on twitter are more likely to be pick up by news organisations, proving that audiences are able to influence what editors deem to be publishable news (Edson & Vos, 2015). These new types of practices are affecting the journalistic profession and fundamentally changing how news are sourced and produced. Journalists are experiencing the increased influence of the audience and in response are adapting their old routines to fit this new ‘news media system’, and in turn starting to relinquish their sovereignty over the news (Edson & Vos, 2015. Positioning this knowledge then within the context of Web 2.0, and the increased agency of the audience granted by social media, this research will focus on why the Rohingya crisis was brought to attention so late in the year.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS (HYPOTHESES) & OPERATIONALISATION Current research does not sufficiently explain the presumed agency that audiences possess in today’s mediated world, and the research that does exist is limited. By focusing on the spread of news at the time of the Rohingya crisis 2017, this thesis presents a unique set of research that contributes to the further understanding of audience agency in the social media era. Thus, considering the above arguments this thesis proposes the following overarching question: to what extent was international newspapers influenced, in any way, by their audience’s agency on Twitter about the Rohingya Crisis? 1. To what extent is the public’s interaction, (as illustrated in theory presented by Edson & Ferruci, 2017) with news on Twitter affecting newspapers and how they construct their content and priorities 2. Through the content analysis presentation of the Rohingya Crisis in online media: How has predisposed determinants of normative interaction with international news by the common populace, 4 (citizen-journalism)
10 as presented by Golan, impacted how the Rohingya Crisis evolved to become a matter of importance within multi-platform news broadcasts. 3. In what way have the tactics by broadcast producers, such as fragmentation, dissemination and audience feedback, affected the cumulative variables within in news stories and the presentation of whole news sources. This said, how has new media production catered to the popularization of specific stories on certain platforms, and in which ways have news corporates normalised news media and source gathering via these means.
The data in this thesis will be presented through a context which focuses on: How has contemporary news stories been impacted by the evolving perspective as shared on online platforms such as Twitter, and in which regard has this concurrent multi-platform evolution impacted the development narrative. Considering the existing research and knowledge of social media in uses within news media and political / international relations contexts, there is a disproportionate coverage of the Rohingya Genocide movement online, then that given to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ or the ‘Occupy Wallstreet Movement’. Small data sets collected by some sources [place sources or any sort of coverage media here], have suggested through the coverage of the Rohingya crisis that it is of critical international importance and that it needs more coverage, and this coverage comes in the form of social media. As such, given that majority of previous academic research on the social media impact in conjunction with Rohingya movement has been limited or isolated, there this thus a significant lack in understanding the extent of which conflicts such as these have impact within the global setting have within social media platforms.
Understanding this context both culturally and academically, through qualitative data collection is therefore critical. This research will not only engage with Twitter as a platform to show that a international humanitarian crisis narrative emerged through the active audience agency on the platform. But this paper will also establish why this narrative became a main news story to begin with. Furthermore, this research is significant as it will also launch into a exploratory endeavour regarding the increasing importance of social media in the journalism field and how audience agency is increasingly influencing editorial decisions. As such, this project will not only embody empirical investigation methods, but also analytical and normative exploration of conflict, societal systems, and global culturalism norms to determining the impact of audience agency on Twitter and comprehensively understand conflict and social media in regards to audience agency on an a academic level not previously explored.
Thus, this research is significant as it aims to:
11 a) Fill the gap in existing academic research to understanding the impact of audience agency and it b) To comprehend and better understand how international news publishing is influenced by viralisation within social media and in contrast; c) How international news publishing impacts social media narratives regarding ‘crisis news’. LITERATURE REVIEW Research within academic literature regarding the influence of audience agency within mass new production is limited. Majority of previous research within the field has predominantly centred on the role of social networking sites, the debate of users as active recipients or active producers, the transformation of modern journalism through social media, and finally how Twitter is being naturalised into the journalism field. By disseminating previous related academic works, this thesis will explain how research is interpreting the emerging relationship between agency, audiences, and the journalism field. Notably, whilst there is academic agreeance on social media and web 2.0 indeed affecting previous knowledge regarding media and media consumption and the need of new fields of research – there remains an ongoing debate regarding how much impact user generated content and audience agency actively have on news production. The influence of web 2.0 has expanded the forms of engagement available to users to now include online participation that allows for expressive and personalised responses (Kahne, Lee & Feezell, 2013; Theocharis & Quintelier, 2016). This participation is manifested through the ability to ‘tweet’ and participate in discussions on current events connected through multiple Social Networking Sites (SNS), or even mobilising support for special causes as seen with ‘Black Lives Matter’.
The theoretical work surrounding SNS’ presents three dominant factors that affect the level of engagement of SNS users (Theocharis & Quintelier, 2016): 1. Providing information 2. Introducing social pressure 3. Enhancing discussion among peers These factors of engagement correlates with how the platform also provides topical sections and feature trending topics in which users are able to easily access current popular discussions from across the site (the primary factor). Regarding the Rohingya crisis case study, when the user began following the hashtag thread regarding the event, and escalation of social pressure was applied in taking notice of the crisis within larger circles (the final factor). Notably however, the level of participation a user invests depends on their pre- determined needs and interest.
ACTIVE RECIPIENTS’ OR PROSUMERS
16 Traditional communications theories are becoming increasingly obsolete with the increased prominence of social media in people’s lives. In the developing social media landscape, the traditional idea of passive audiences has become superseded as users are taking control of their own online communication and news consumption (Berenger, 2013). With web 2.0 users are no longer just consumers of news, as there is a growing body of research which advocate that in the new media environment brought on by web 2.0 users are now characterised by interactivity and the production of news (Johansson & Oden, 2017; Webster, 2017). The contributions to the social movement literature, brought on by social media, tend to focus on how it was utilised as informational sources in very specific cases such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ (Ince, Jelani & Rojas, 2017), the ‘Occupy Movement’ (Juris, 2012), and the Arab Spring (Bruns, Highfield & burgess. 2013). In all three cases, the media represented a crucial role during events like these to mobilise information about what is happening, mobilising information means is content outside the spectrum outside politics and political actors and in other words integrate crisis’s and conflicts into the wider scope of the community. Arguably social media has allowed users to fulfil their political participatory needs by engaging and discussing these types current events on Twitter (Ping Yu, 2016; Oser, 2017). Much of communications research focuses on the way that social media and the experience of users is important to democratic engagement and focuses on the user’s involvement and engagement with politics (Theocharis & Quintelier, 2014; Ostman, 2012). However, a major gap in the literature is this lack of understanding how audiences on social media influence the news cycle by showing support and raising awareness of issues that concern them on social media.
Research has begun showing that users, or often called sources, are being able increasingly manage the news, with 62% of US citizens receiving their news from social media it is becoming crucial for news organisation to have a presence on social networking sites (Carlsson, 2018). The power of the user is granted by the economic decline of news organisations, the increased prevalence of news management, as well as the possibility for users to selectively bypass news all together – factors that have all contributed to shifting the advantage of power (Brorersama et. al., 20132; Cushion et. al., 2014, Cherubi & Nielsen, 2016). However, there are different perspectives on this power relationship with some arguing that journalists are still in power (Johansson & Oden, 2017). Arguably however, no matter where the power in this relationship lies, there is evidence that social media (Twitter) is still a power is a powerful platform for breaking news. This has been illustrated by several instances news broke on Twitter before they even reach mainstream media hours later, e.g. Michael Jackssons death was reported on Twitter within 30 min after the 911 call, (Ju, Jeong & Chyi. 2013). Despite this, not all research agrees with this view as Jordan’s (2013) research reached a conclusion that tried to disprove social media’s influence on mainstream news.
One of the most researched consequences related to the growth of social media is audience fragmentation – because of the over saturation of news sources, digital media and general width of choices user patterns are
17 widely distributed (Webster, 2014a.). Because of this this paper will investigate this relationship and see if social media influences what type of stories news organisations publish to focus on their audience’s desires. However, it is important to distinguish between what is reported and to what extent is being reported, while social media users may not be able to actively influence the content of the news, but by bringing certain topics on Twitter to trending users are able to influence the news selection when it comes to publishing (Johansson & Oden, 2017). Nevertheless, the fact remains that a lot of research has proved that official information from non-governmental organisations and public authorities still carry the strongest influence across social media when it comes to influence in the news.
TRADITIONAL ONLINE MEDIA JOURNALISTIC PRACTICES Modern journalism research on Twitter tends to focus on the relationship between the established norms and practices of professional news practices and the SNS, and it has grown to become a major focus of research (Hermina, 2013). Significant transformations to the journalist field is seen to be the result of different factors; the increased speed at which communication and breaking news travel, the shifting role of social media as an audience, and the changing expectations of the audience, as well as stakeholders, to receive news instantaneously (Johansson & Odén, 2017; Nielsen & Schroder, 2014). There is a growing body of research that focuses on the transformation of the traditional ‘news beat’ through the incorporation of social media. A traditional ‘beat’ takes on two forms, a social form and a physical form in which reporters are assigned to specific beats depending on the needs of the paper5 . With the spread of Twitter this ‘beat’ has evolved from a physical to a digital space, and the site has become an efficient, and convenient accessible ‘beat’ for journalists when locating information and stories to cover, hence journalists are increasingly sourcing information online to include in their journalism discourse (Broersama & Marcell, 2013; Kalsnes & Larsson, 2017). In their digital news project (2016) Cherubini and Nielsen suggest that social media indeed can influence editorial news selection, along with Kalsnes and Larsson (2017) who suggests that the distribution of news across social media can impact what is published in the news. One of the research areas which is facing the most tension is that of ‘gatekeeping’ which has enabled the journalists to determine what qualifies as news and to publish credible information. The term was defined early by communication researcher McQuail who stated; “'the process by which selections are made in media work, especially decisions whether or not to admit a particular news story to pass through the "gates" of a news medium into the news channels” (as cited in Bruns, 2003). This participatory style of journalism has also been researched to show that journalists and their editors want to keep this role regardless of them inviting 5 For example, in a city abroad or at parliament
18 the audience to participate (Hermida, 2013). However, building on this research of gatekeeping practices is the emerging literature of ‘gatewatching’ which questions the effectiveness of the practice of gatekeeping. Bruns (2003) argues that the vastness and the ability of the internet allows users to home in on their desired news and go directly to the source, rather than relying on sub-par coverage from large mass media organisations. So rather than deciding what should be published, journalists are watching what their audiences are reading, and want to read (Paulussen & Harder, 2014; Hermida et. Al, 2012). To conclude, the means of traditional news delivery has thus evolved to reach mass audiences, as such the role of the audience has also evolved and is now plays a crucial role is distributing news within their contact networks (Carlsson,2018). Twitter as a SNS is being utilised by journalists in four ways: 1. Locating new stories 2. Finding sources and information 3. Acquiring quotes 4. “-Verifying information by using the wisdom of the crowd” (Brorersama & Graham, 2013: 448). This said, agreeing with the ‘active users’ theory García-Perdomo et. al. (2017) argues that social media is crucial for news organisations to connect with their increasingly active audiences and granted them a gatekeeping power, similar to what journalists have been enjoying for decades. By sharing stories to their networks audiences are indicating to their family and friends what they find important and therefore increase the audience reach for certain stories - influencing what news aim to publish (Edson & Vos, 2016). NATURALISING TWITTER Most news organisations have established social media presences on multiple SNS platforms, and through these channels they are able to deliver weather updates, be quick on reporting breaking news, live tweet sport events, and reach out to their audiences – all with the possibility of hyperlinking their audiences back to their websites (Ju, Jeong, & Chyi, 2013). However, Twitter is still only used by a minority of internet users, with only 11% of Americans using the platform, nonetheless, these individuals are more like to be interested and engage with the news (Hermida, 2010). Moreover, research has been done on what is termed ‘The Twitter Effect’, where the platforms users provide live news updates on breaking stories without reporters at the scene (Vis, 2013).
Eyeing the potential of SNS’s, most news organizations have established their own social media presence on Facebook and Twitter (Kiesler and Eaton 2009; Chew 2007; Seward 2008). Through social media channels, newspapers deliver news or weather updates, promote specific events, and collect user-generated content
19 (Treadaway 2010; Lewis 2009; Martire 2008). The most common practice is to share hyperlinks to stories hosted on the newspaper’s website, were the goal is to drive traffic from SNS’s to the newspaper site. As such, several newspapers have devoted substantial resources and hired social media specialists to cultivate their social media audience (Parr 2009). Because of the increased influence of Twitter and the transformation it has caused to traditional news practices there is a growing body of literature which discussed the ‘normalisation of Twitter’ (Hermida, 2013). This field of research aims to discuss and research how Twitter has become a norm for modern journalists, and focuses on how journalists are now utilising it as a tool to support their practices. Pauluseen & Harder (2014) suggests that the website even has become an essential tool when reporting on certain news. However, Twitter is no longer just a SNS, it has grown to become a semi authoritative medium for audiences to access their news by following, retweeting and reacting to news shared by journalists that they follow – in other words creating User Generated Content (USG) (Williams, Wardle, & Wahl-Jorgensen. 2010; Lasorsa, Lewis & Holton, 2012). Moreover, there is a difference in what editors believe to be of public interest and what the public desire, by incorporating Twitter into their practices journalists and editors can understand their audience’s (Bastos, 2014). Even though Jordaan’s (2013) research showed that there is no major influence of social media on news selection the author concluded that journalists are not immune to the effects of social media and that it is increasingly becoming part of the routine.
Twitter can be seen as an awareness system that allows news organisations to keep track of their audiences as it notifies journalists about early news trends, interesting people and rising issues that might have bypassed the news radar. Considering that in 2017, two-thirds of Americans get their news through social media, and journalist who have normalised Twitter into their practices are bound to be influenced by their audience’s agency (Shearer & Gottfried, 2017; Bastos, 2014). Because of the vast number of alternative sources of information that is available to users today, newsrooms are noting audience preferences and habits to prevent them from drifting to other sources, leading editors caught between audience desires and their own editorial judgement (Edson & Vos, 2016; Schroder, 2014).
In summary, much of the literature suggests that there are indications of a relationship between social media whether that is audience participation, gatewatching, audience fragmentation, or the pressure of commercialisation that forces editors to reconsider what news should be published, but they disagree on the level of influence that this relationship carries.
20 ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK This section of the thesis presents an overview of the analytical approach and position of the researcher. Through a bottom up approach the research question was decided, followed by a process of locating an appropriate research epistemology resulting in the study being conducted through a qualitative research method by adopting a critical approach. The reason being that knowledge is always evolving with new evidence, and the critical approach aims to questions the societal ‘truth’ and challenge them to improve the overall understanding of society (Siegel, 1989). This thesis aims to contribute to the current literature that is challenging the societal ‘truth’ that audiences do not have influence over what news are being published and critically analyse this notion.
STRUCTURE VERSUS AGENCY The structure versus agency debate can be understood as a theoretical framework that debates to what extent individual action is affect by societal structures and personal autonomy – in other words, if an individual is free to make their own choices or if these choices are dictated by society. Structure may refer to several things, such as material, societal, cultural or economic factors – all which may impact an individual’s choice. Agency on the other hand is an individual’s capacity to act on free will, without intervening structural factors such as class, religions, education, or gender impacting the decision (Elder-Vass, 2010a; Elder-Vass, 2010b). This thesis will take a constructivist approach to the debate and focus on cultural factors affecting agency, as this includes the norms and customs affecting an individual and in turn, relate to the news practices of modern society. There have been many scholars and theorist who have presented notable work on the structure agency debate, all with their own way of looking at individual agency. Traditional theorist argue that laws of social organisation govern societal institution, and that these laws eventually limit human freedom (Pratten, 1993). Because thesis adopts a constructivist approach to the structure agency debate, the realist arguments of traditional theorists, such as Marx, fail to fully explain the relationship that has emerged between news organisations and social media. However, theorists such as Roberto Unger, view the structure agency debate through a different lens and illuminate the individual’s ability to resist the structural constraints imposed upon them. Unger acknowledges, rather than denying its power, that structure indeed does govern and limit human freedom, but his theory of negative capability argues that individuals can rise above their social context and resist these limitations to their freedom (Unger, 2004).
Within the scope of this thesis, structure is seen as the editorial selection of published news which dictates what audiences can read. Before web 2.0 and the internet, audiences had limited choice in news selection, tv channels and radio stations – meaning that most of audiences received news that editors had deemed to be
21 interesting to their audiences. Because of these selective editorial decisions audience actions were firmly dictated by societal structures – their news where decided for them, not by them. However, with the explosion of websites, and the increased influence of SNSs, audience are no longer left without choice. Rather than being told what to read from a few news outlets, audiences can now selectively choose what news they wish to consume by actively deciding what news outlets publish articles that they are interested in. Thus, the abundance of choice has allowed the audience to have agency in their news consumption. Through Twitter users can curate their news flow by following accounts and organisations that fulfil their interests and to keep them updated.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS PRODUCTION During the early stages of news production journalists are expected to evaluate and research their specific areas6 to gather potential stories. Thus, with the internet becoming an integral part of journalism more and more stories are gathered through social media and put forward as potential stories (Robinson, 2009). The second stage in news production is the editorial selection of potential stories to determine what goes to press and what is to be published online. The editorial department makes the active decision to select what articles and stories that they deem newsworthy and believe will have the largest impact and will appeal to a wide audience (Harcup & O’Neill, 2017). One factor of the editorial decision that needs to be factored in is to attract as many readers as possible as it will bring in larger advertisement revenues for the news organisation. To appeal to wide audience’s, news are put in hierarchical order and in turn niche stories are excluded as well as stories that are predicted to bring in low audience counts – which has been the case with the Rohingya until September 2017 when it became the main news story (Lima, 2008). These news are then filtered further by smaller news organisations and further condensed to suit specific markets – dictating the global news flows and what the general public access through different mediums. This is important because through this act of gatekeeping journalists actively decide what news their readers will access. However, social media has the ability to completely bypass this traditional gate and allow users to utilise their personal agency to read global news stories that are not widely covered by mainstream media.
The web 2.0 era has enabled instantaneous and multi-directional communication pathways which has transformed the modern understanding of news production, and increasingly blurring the lines between senders and receivers. And just as the individual is the central focal point of the internet, journalism has become less institutional and more individual – journalism can be carried out anywhere as long as there is internet access and a reporter. Along these lines Schudson (2011) argues that the field of journalism has been 6 These areas are often called a ‘beat’ and are focused on specialised areas such as government politics, sports teams and entertainment to name a few.
22 fundamentally changed in six different areas; a) there no longer is a clear distinction between senders and receivers, b) the division between different mediums is no longer clear cut, c) the emergence of citizen journalism has blurred the line between amateur and professional journalist, d) the definition between different financial models has changed, e) news corporations have a clear lean towards bureaucratic business models, and f) old media has almost completely transformed into new media. Factors a), e), and f) are featured throughout this research as important factors for explaining the emergence of audience agency through twitter.
Another important ramification associated with web 2.0 is the geographical reach of modern news, as it has drastically expanded the reach of journalism, thus diffusing the traditional city-by-city readership and giving it an international scope. However, this goes against the media logic of traditional news where readers are believed to be more inclined to read news that are in close geographic proximity to them (Golan, 2009). This global scope is also further enhanced with the access to social media which has changed the news consumption patter for readers, where they now can get instantaneous news about everything through their smartphone devices. While web 2.0 fundamentally changed the journalism field it also affected the scope of which news can travel. The changing form of global journalism influences news selection as large news sites, like those included in this paper, now have global readerships thanks to globalisation and the expansion of the internet. This expanded of reader markets force journalists to adhere to more global perspectives when reporting as well as observing international and cultural differences (Nolan, et al., 2009). Research has been made to understand what the determinants of international news’ newsworthiness, and three event-oriented variables has emerged in the last three decades of research on the topic; normative deviance, potential for social change deviance, and relevance to the United states (Golan, 2009). Normative deviance is the extent a crisis or event is violating then norms of US society, in context; the deprivation of the Rohingya’s human rights is violating the US norm of universal human rights. Social deviance is conceptualised as the extent to which an event is challenging the status quo in the country where the event is taking place; for instance, the attack on the Rohingya in what was assumed to be a just and democratic state under the rule of Aung San Suu Kyi. Relevance to the US could be in terms of trade relations, humanitarian interactions, international relations etc. However, Golan (2009) has suggested that these three factors are not exhaustive and need to be expanded upon with other factors such as cultural affinity, location in the world system, and geographical variables. Each of these variables are important as they could potentially explain why the Rohingya crisis was deemed newsworthy by international news organisations. Events that occur in countries with similar cultural values and norms to that of the US, countries with cultural affinity, are more likely to get wider press coverage in international news, which is west-centric. The reasoning behind these arguments lies in social identiy theory which argues that individuals that humans are more attached to their group
23 membership. A country’s position in the hierarchy of nations also affects its crisis cover, for a country like Myanmar which is far down the ladder international news coverage tends to be sporadic, unlike the hegemonic power the United States which dominates world news. Finally, the geographic proximity also affect the extent of news reporting, the further away a country is away from the origin country of the event, it is less likely to actually cover the news story. USES AND GRATIFICATION THEORY In Stuart Halls’ 1973 work ‘Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse’, the term active audience was introduced for the first time; stating that audience are not passive audiences but rather active consumers which interpret messages received depending on their social backgrounds, and even changing the message through collective action. Within this field of audience studies, the ‘Uses and Gratification theory’7 builds upon Halls’ theory of active audiences and emphasises how through active use of media, (along with positive motivation), specific gratification is created that suits an individual’s needs (Tanta et. al., 2014). In this regard, the theory emphasises the importance of the individual and their habits of using media. Thus, rather than focusing on what media does to people, this approach focuses on what people do with media8 (Raacke & Bonds-Raacke, 2008). In accordance with Blumer and Katz, gratification theory is concerned with the social and psychological origins of needs, which generates expectations within mass media or other sources leading to differential patterns of media exposure (or engagement in other activities), in order to meet needs of gratifications (Blumer & Katz, 1974). Thus, research within this theory argues that users already know their needs and interests, and therefore evaluates which median and media sources will satisfy those needs for news consumption (Tewsbuty, Hals, & Bibart, 2008; Webster, 2014b). The modern news consumer falls within one of two categories when satisfying their need for news; ‘browsers’ or ‘selectors’. Within the first category audiences skim through news media to cover a large range of topics, and in turn is not likely to read deeply into current events and across several platforms – often viewed to be the regular newspaper reader. Contrasty, selectors had to confine majority of their news exposure to specific topics – the most common behaviour of modern news consumers (Tewsbury, Hals, & Bibart, 2008; Edgerly et. al., 2017). This selective consumption behaviour was first researched by Heeter in 1985 who noted that television viewers only tune into specific channels. Rubin (1984) argues that there are three alternatives of what motivates users in their news media 7 While the theory was developed mid-20th century it regained prominence and momentum in the last decade because of the advances in social media.
8 (in this case, how they consume and engage with news online)
24 consumption categories –one being general motivation which triggers a browsing behaviour which is fuelled by users desired to be attune with their social environment. Hence, through choosing who and what to follow on Twitter users are personally curating what updates will satisfy their news needs, they can either follow a broad range of accounts (browsers) or follow very specific accounts (selectors). Twitter users are more likely to get their news through a two-step flow through so called “elite opinion leaders” which concise of 0.05% of all accounts, and roughly half of Twitter users get their information from these accounts (Webster, 2014b). However, despite the role of personal curation in the new media environments, not all media exposure should be attributed to personal choice since Twitter and social media still account for a very small part of the total consumption of news worldwide. AUDIENCE RESEARCH When studying audience behaviours as causes for the increased number of published article by international news this study focused on three factors; audience fragmentation, audience dissemination and audience feedback. These factors are separate but not mutually exclusive of one another and they all are centred around how audience agency can affect how editorial decision are made. This agency is granted through social media which grants a user the ability to influence the news subconsciously through their actions. So, through audience fragmentation, dissemination and feedback online audience are now able to assert influence through agency.
AUDIENCE FRAGMENTATION Audiences on social media are now able to influence the news through their actions on social network, and there are several levels for audience behaviour regarding news consumption online. The modern news market is in decline and news organisations, which are commercially driven, are struggling to remain relevant and economically successful. The key to this business model has always been to attract and maintain large audiences as revenue is gained from sponsorship and ad deals through print and online media (Banville, 2016). This wide selection of mediums and sources from which an individual can access news means that audiences are now spread thin across a wide spectrum of diverse sources – and that they are selectively choosing what sources they want to read. This phenomenon is called audience fragmentation and it is affecting the way that news considers what news they want to publish. The internet offers unlimited for audiences around the world but also increased the difficulty for the news industry to maintain their audiences. As a result, news
25 organisations are now more inclined to publish articles on their social media which they know will increase their view counts on their websites (King, 2010). AUDIENCE DISSEMINATION Another important aspect in modern journalism is the importance of audience dissemination, the distribution of media through audiences themselves. Dissemination is not a new practice, but the spread of articles through social networks is important to regain audiences lost to fragmentation. Articles that are shared on Twitter by news organisations are summarised in such a way to maximise the chances of users to share the article within their social networks. This act of sharing exponentially increases the chances of news organisations gaining more traffic resulting from a single article. Previous research has shown that some of the most retweeted tweets are news, and that negative news are more likely to be shared than positive news (Rudat & Buder, 2015). Research has also been made to understand what factors influence users to retweet certain news, and reaching new audiences, entertainment purposes and validation seeking have been found to be some of the most influential factors (Boyd et. al. 2015). However, no matter what factors that are influencing social media users to decide to retweet a story the fact remains that; by retweeting a tweet linked to a news article, audience are exerting their agency on news organisations by acting as opinion leaders (Oeldorf-Hirsch & Shyam, 2015).
AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Due to the growing importance of social media for the news industry, news corporations have started to incorporate analytical tools such as google analytics which presents quantifiable audience feedback. This feedback can then help journalists to understand what topics to cover, and what could be interesting for their readers (Edson, Ferrucci, 2017). It should be noted, this type of feedback is only a small part in the editorial decision when publishing news. When a topic is subjected to large amount of attention it indicates that this topic is interesting, or important for audiences. One factor of audience feedback that could present to be influential is the number of likes each news story receives as it indicates audience trends over time. METHODOLOGY, METHOD AND SCOPE OF EMPIRICAL DATA In order to focus on understanding the context that was presented within this research, qualitative methods were used to determine both the scope of the research and also explore the interlinked relationship between social media and news production. To achieve this, both qualitative and quantitative research methods for data accumulation were employed. These methods were chosen on the basis that they known to be reliable and more importantly replicable. As such, the researchers associated with this project and future projects would also be able to replicate the results of the study within future academic undertakings (Krippendorff,
26 2013). Thus, this research adopted a qualitative approach, content analysis, for researching what caused the sudden increase in published articles relating to the Rohingya. Quantitative research methods where incorporated for audience research purposes and to analyses the effects of said causes. METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH Prior to content analysis, a preliminary hypothesis [theory] was designed for the purposes of the report to shape how content analysis is conducted. This theory is subject to a ‘emergent design’ in which the project construction/ construction of theory will be subject to change dependant on the insights and understandings made via the analysis of the semi-randomly selected works. Thus through a ongoing interpretation of the data collected via content analysis, a finalised comprehensive theory will be created. Combining the results of the content analysis in accordance with certain determinants of what becomes international news this paper aims to understand why the Rohingya Crisis reached prominence as a topic. The major overarching themes that emerge through content analysis will be compared against the hypothesised potential determinants to gain an understanding why this became a primary story of interest to international audiences.
For the purposes of this research, the methodology in regard to research questions one and two presented in this thesis will be concurrent, content analysis will be labelled as ‘Methodology 1’ within the report. This methodology will be relational content analysis because it allows for locating common themes and concepts across the sampled articles to further a discussion on the determinants of international news. This is detailed further in section 6.1. This said, in regard to questions three and four, a different approach to the methodology will be undertaken, a qualitative research approach which will be labelled as methodology 2 within this report. This approach was chosen because it would allow for a visual representation how news publishing and perspectives evolve and further the theoretical understanding how audience research in relation to the conflict. In accordance with this research thesis requiring two different types of methodologies in order to attain a comprehensive final theory, relational content analysis and qualitative analysis. It is recognised that there will be unprecedented variables that cannot be accounted for priory as caused by the two different approaches to data analysis as listed above. This said, two sets of variables have been identified primarily: Within ‘Methodology 1’, the controlled variables will be the time period in which research will be conducted,
27 determined through a small preliminary quantitative study to be first two weeks of September 2017 as illustrated by graphs 1-3 which illustrates how the sample period was determined. The independent variables that are being analysed are the themes located in the sampled articles as explained in ‘articles for content analysis’. In ‘Methodology 2’, the controlled variables will be first two weeks of September 2017, and the Twitter accounts (as explained in sample determination). Independent variables to be researched include; number of tweets, average number of retweets, average number of likes, average number of subtweets, themes within the tweets as it provides data and depth to analysing audience behaviour in relation to publishing behaviour of international news organisations.
This said, this research has considered the variables that it has created in utilising a multi-method design9 for the purposes of data accumulation. As such these variables has been identified as error or deviance due to data transcription between human and PC, the duration of the study impacting the results, that ongoing emergent design structure of the base research approach possibly allowing for interpretational use of data inclusive of issues over sampling methods congruence. These variables were accommodated for by limiting the sample pool and the use of only select sources for semi-random selection. Notably, the original suggested data pool for the project was more expansive, however due to limited access to this data an emergent design approach accommodated a changed approach to data gathering, additionally this choice of ‘emergent design’ was selected in order to facilitate possible needs for change within the research questions themselves. Furthermore accommodations were made with data method leeway to allow for further academic expansion within the future to achieve further comprehensive results. As such, the data collected within this essay has accommodated for any possible data flaws within reasonable bounds, as such a comprehensive theory has been created within the final report. RELATIONAL ANALYSIS One of the main reasons for doing content analysis research is to understand links between causes and the effect, for example news content (cause) and audience sizes (effect). Content analysis is a two-step process, the first half is to measure and analyse the causes, and the second half is to evaluate the effects. Within this context, this paper will firstly perform a relational content analysis on ten international newspapers on three days during September 2017, with the aim to understand what type of news content is being published about 9 Methodology 1 and methodology 2
28 the Rohingya crisis. Following the results of this short analysis, this paper will evaluate the resulting effects on audience sizes and interest, with the aim to draw conclusions about the presumed influence that audiences have on published news. CONTENT ANALYSIS FRAMEWORK Content analysis is a widely used qualitative method of research that is used to interpret context from text by deriving it down to interpretable data points. In the context of this research, the definition of qualitative content analysis by Hsieh and Shannon will be adopted; ‘a research method for the subjective interpretation of the content of text data through the systematic classification process of coding and identifying themes or patterns’ (2005: 1279). The research method is applicable in all fields of research, and there are currently three distinct styles: conventional, directed, and summative. According to Hsieh and Shannon the only thing that separates the three approaches are ‘coding schemes; the origin of code and threats to trustworthiness’ (2005:1277). By adopting a conventional approach this report aims to highlight the relationship between the content analysis variables gathered from the quantitative approach and the qualitative approach, with the aim to construct improved validity to the overall analysis in this paper.
There are two main categories of content analysis; conceptual and relational analysis. While similar there are some major differences between the two, such as conceptual analysis focuses on identifying the number of time a chosen concept occurs within the selected text(s) and that relational analysis focuses on analysing the relationship between concepts in the text(s). Because of the focus on one concept with the conceptual analysis framework it is unsuitable for this research paper. To answer the above research questions multiple concepts, need to be analysed to understand the determinants of the Rohingya crisis as international news, thus validating conceptual analysis as an approach. This paper will detail below how relational content analysis is adopted as a research method.
When deciding what approach to relational analysis this thesis would adopt, this thesis opted for a conventional approach with human coding as its mode of operationalisation. A conventional approach to coding schemes is suitable when there is limited existing literature surrounding a research subject, because it refrains from imposing categorical systems on the data and instead let the categorical system come naturally through the data (Fox et. al. 2015). A direct approach on the other hand is more suitable for research on existing phenomenon that need further clarification. The last approach to content analysis coding schemes, summative analysis, is used for understanding how specific words or content are being used in a text (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005). The implementation of a conventional coding approach for this research has been deemed suitable on the basis for describing the phenomenon of this thesis due to of the lack of prior academic
29 coverage. Additionally, human coding was preferred as it integrated well with the conventional approach contra to computer coding which would not allow for the same organic growth of coding schemes. Whilst a more reliable result would have been granted by involving two different coders, (which would establish intercoder reliability), this study exclusively involves the author as a coder, and therefore have to account for possible bias and margins of error. The coding schemes are available for view in the appendix. To summarise, this paper has adopted a conceptual content analysis approach with a conventional coding approach to emphasise analysis of multiple concepts with an organic growth of coding schemes. This paper incorporates the framework found in Krippendorff (2013) and the process of design from Neuendorf (2002) for designing the methodology. By analysing the 30 semi-randomly selected articles this content analysis aims to further clarify the interrelations between modern journalism and audiences on social media. Krippendorff (2013) suggests a content analysis framework based on six conceptual components: 1. The body of text 2. A research question 3. A context 4. An analytical construct 5. Inferences that are intended to answer the research question 6. Validating evidence. (These six components are visualised in figure 1). The process for designing the analysis method is based on Neuendorf’s (2002) flowchart of content analysis research which details a nine-step process in how to properly design an analysis method. The variables that will be most important for this study include response to the article on Twitter, what type of textual content the article focuses on, if this content was derived from crowdsourcing. The unit of sampling will be news stories, the unit of data collection will also be news stories, and the unit of analysis will be numbers of articles posted in a day.
Figure 5.1 depicts the content analysis of Krippendorff’s (2013) framework.
30 CODING CATEGORIES The coding scheme consisted topics of each news article being identified, with the individual article being the unit of analysis. To identify patterns across the articles, the topics where categorised into eight categories which included: 1. Human Migration 2. International Relations 3. Terrorism, 4. Human Rights/ Civil Liberty 5. Political/General News 6. Crime/ Legal Action 7. Development 8. State Security Measures The tweets featured on the news organisations verified twitter accounts where coded for 7 variables. The unit of analysis was the highest retweeted tweet and the context unit of analysis was the content of the tweet itself. Tweets where coded similarly as the articles with 7 categories: 1. Human Migration 2. International Relations 3. Terrorism 4. Human Rights/ Civil Liberty, 5. Political/General News 6. Crime/ Legal Action 7. Image Included. ARTICLES FOR CONTENT ANALYSIS After determining the level of interest surrounding the Rohingya crisis from tweets and published articles, an accumulated sample for content analysis was created. This was achieved via 3 steps: Firstly: To limit the sample size only articles from the top ten news organisations with the highest number of published articles during the period where included. These being, in order of published articles from highest to lowest: Times of India (197), CNN (109), The Times (79), The New York Times (69), The Independent (68), Dawn (65), Wall Street Journal (62), Washington Post (40), Daily Mail (36), and Financial Times (24). Secondly: The articles chosen to be included as research material for the content analysis were then determined based on two aspects; the article had been featured on the news organisations main twitter feed within the two-week period and contained a hyperlink to the website itself. Three articles were taken from each twitter accounts: one on the 1/9, one on the 7/9 and finally on the 14/9. Lastly: Each article was sourced by using Twitter’s advanced search function by searching the archive by mentions of ‘Rohingya’, from the specific account, in English and on the specific day. For example, a search function looked like this: ‘Rohingya’, @timesofindia, only in English, from 1/9/17 to 1/9/17. To limit potential
31 selective bias when determining what article should be included this thesis went with a stratified sampling method. These methods were chosen as they ensured a appropriate representation for the various sample groups (individual newspapers) since not every sample group will be the same size (Neuendorf, 2002). It should be noted that, if no article was available containing a hyperlink, or if the only hyperlink was broken a 0 was recorded for that day. Each selection went through the following process; the number of tweets posted that fit the criteria where counted for the particular day, for example three articles were posted, this number was then entered into a sub-sample group (one for each newspaper). Each sub-sample group total number of articles was entered into a random generator which granted a number. This number then correlated to an article in the subsample, determining which article was included in the analytical sample. See diagram one for clarification.
DATA COLLECTION AND SAMPLE DETERMINATION Data was collected by using both quantitative and qualitative data collection. Quantitative data was used for impartiality and shallow analysis, and qualitative data for deeper and more insightful analysis. Qualitative data was gathered to form two different samples: data of published news articles and number of tweets for specific hashtags. Quantitative data was gathered by using a content analysis framework on impartially selected news articles. Article Pool Sub-Sample Groups Article located in sub-sample Final sample Diagram 6.1 shows the process of gathering the article sample size.
32 8.1 PUBLISHED NEWS The first part of this study was to locate the period that signified the start of the Rohingya crisis news cycle, and its peak. This was done by adopting a three-step quantitative approach which allowed for a visual representation of time periods where the highest concentration of published news where present. Articles where gathered from the Factiva database by using the search prompt ‘Rohingya’ and entered into a spreadsheet for selecting the year, month and specific time period. The purpose of this data gathering was to impartially select a period of time which indicated the accumulating interest for the Rohingya crisis. The Rohingya crisis was a global news story that was read about by individuals all over the world accessed through their preferred news platforms. Because of the international scope of the crisis this paper selected to include a sample of mixed variety international news organisations as to not include a western bias as well as bias towards news organisations preferred by the author. The organisations were then selected based of their monthly unique visitor counts with four requirements: news is published in English, the organisation actively produces news articles, the organisation defines itself as a news organisation, and during the month of September ‘Rohingya’ was mentioned at least once. Because of this reason, many major international newspapers such as Yomiuri Shimbun (Japanese), Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi), Cankao Xiaoxi (Chinese), and Bild (German) which may have the largest circulation in their countries, could not be featured in this study because they did not meet the language requirement. MSN news and Google news were not included in the sample as both website compile news articles from across the web rather than actively producing them. Other online newspapers such as the Huffpost10 could not be included because no articles registered through the database Factiva. The sample size was determined to be 20 different international news organisations to include a wider selection of published news and a sample size that would reflect different levels of concentration on the Rohingya Crisis (see table 6.1. over page).
10 (formerly known as the Huffington post)
33 NEWS ORGANISATION ORIGIN 1 New York Times USA 2 Washington Post USA 3 USA Today USA 4 Times of India India 5 New York Post USA 6 Guardian UK 7 Wall Street Journal USA 8 China Daily China 9 Dawn Pakistan 10 Mail Online UK 11 People´s Daily China 12 Daily Mail UK 13 Daily Telegraph Australia 14 The Independent USA 15 Financial Times Japan 16 CNN USA 17 Daily Mirror UK 18 Sydney Morning Herald Australia 19 The Times UK 20 The Economist America Table 6.1 Shows the ten news organisations, and their country of origin, that was included in this study.
34 The Factiva database allows users to target their search towards specific search terms, date ranges, and specific newspapers. As such, each selected article, was run individually through the same search query, starting with 2015. The total articles mentioning the search term that year was noted (diagram 6.2.), repeating for 2016, and 2017. The two former years (15’, 16’) where included to give a base point in how often the Muslim community was mentioned in the news prior to 2017.The same process was repeated for each month in 2017 (diagram 6.3), this was done to localise during what month was news surrounding the Rohingya was most condensed. Finally, the last step for localising the sample size was to run the search query for the month of September 2017 to identify the sample size. The sample size was selected as the first two-week period in September 2017 which corresponds with the rise of interest in the Rohingya crisis (diagram 6.4). Data was compiled by using excel spreadsheet and then used to create graphs to visually represent the collected data. Diagram 6.2 shows the distribution of articles per year by the 20-selected newspaper with preference for 2017.
100 200 300 400 500 600 700 Numer of articles published Newspaper Articles published by year 2015 2016 2017
35 Diagram 6.3 shows the distribution of published articles in 2017. The graph is showing clear preference for September 2017. Diagram 6.4 shows the distribution of published articles in September 2017. The graph shows that the number of articles published in 2017 peaked on September 14th 2017, with 118 published articles. 500 1000 1500 2000 Number of articles published Month of the year Articles published per month 2017 New York Times Washington Post USA today Times of India New York Post Guardian Wall Street Journal China Daily Dawn Mail Online People´s Daily Daily Mail Daily Telegraph The Independent Financial Times CNN Daily Mirror Sydney Morning Herald The Times The Economist 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 Number of articles published Date Articles published September 2017 New York Times Washington Post USA today Times of India New York Post Guardian Wall Street Journal China Daily Dawn Mail Online People´s Daily Daily Mail Daily Telegraph The Independent Financial Times CNN Daily Mirror Sydney Morning Herald The Times The Economist
36 8.2 TWITTER The second stage of qualitative data collection was collecting a sample of tweets from the now determined two-week period from 1st to 14th of September 2017. The sample was gathered from the hashtag #rohignya and limited to tweets in English only. The hashtag was selected because it would exclude tweets that where not explicitly discussing the crisis and thus provide more accurate results. Unlike Factiva, Twitter does not allow for the same precise customisable search function, however a user can enter the period that they want to look at. The website will then present the available tweets for that website. A total number is not provided for the search, thus, to overcome this hurdle the data sample of tweets was gathered by manually counting tweets through the website’s regular search function. This function does not notify a user how many times a hashtag has been used, thus reducing the data collection to manual counting. By scrolling through the hashtag feed, with safety feature turned off, to the 1st of September the number of tweets under #rohingya where counted and accounted for in excel, in which this method was then repeated for the next consecutive thirteen days. The two-week period determined earlier is then used to limit the data sample and producing a more manageable data collection. While the website indeed allows for data collection through its API systems, the application to collect data from the website for this thesis was not approved on time. Other third-party APIs could only provide historical data for less than six months, therefore becoming invalid options.
VALIDITY This method of data collection comes with its own limitations: Firstly, this method most likely does not present an accurate overview of exactly how many tweets where tweeted every single day. This approach to collecting data did severely limit the amount of data that could be collected and does not present an accurate depiction of the total number of tweets around the Rohingya crisis. Since the Twitter developer access was granted too late in the research process this thesis had to rely on gathering data from tweets manually. The search function on twitter was not able to give even a slightest indentation of the total number of tweets about the crisis, which has totalled over one million (Rannard, 2017). This of course is a big problem for the validity of this research due to only a fraction of the data able to be cultivated from the selected samples, in which the viability of the paper is prone to criticism, however this could prove as a positive as an indication that further research should be made into this field. In this regard, future improvements would include accessing, the now granted, developer account and thus gaining access to the full data base of tweets – gaining more accurate and precise research indications. Secondly, the method is open for user error as a tweet can be accidentally skipped or missed. When working within these data limitations there were questions about validity as well. Because of the manual collection of
37 data from Twitter and the single coder method there are issues with to what extent the results of this study can be considered valid. The aim for this study was not to present factual research pinpointing the fact that there is a relationship between social media and published news, but rather enhance the ongoing debate on the issue. Because of this reason this paper serves more as an indicator that further research is necessary, but that the field is of academic interest as results arguably indicate some correlation between the two. Thirdly, by selecting a popular hashtag like #rohingya the data set will include “spam” tweets which take advantage of trending topics to spread their message. And lastly, by counting singular tweets, debates and mentions within the discourse are missed and excluded, which could very likely generate more traction than the single tweets themselves, the same goes for retweets. To improve this method, access to the Twitter API would greatly increase the accuracy of the data, as well allow for a greater scope of data collection. By having access to the full Twitter historic archive more elaborate data collection on a wider range of data section could be collected, such as mentions, retweets of certain news stories, and how many times every newspaper discussed the topic on Twitter.
ETHICS When conducting this research, the author was conscious of ethical and legal implications to ensure that the work was carried out correctly according to international research standards. Detailed below are the ethical and legal issues presented and discussed. The issues that arose was informed consent of social media users, sampling and collecting data from Twitter, and the copy right ownership of newspaper articles that where featured in this work. INFORMED CONSENT Research should always include informed consent of the research subjects as detailed in ‘Good Research Practice’ (Swedish Research Council, 2017). The tweets written by users on Twitter should be considered personal data, and when signing up to Twitter a user signs a user agreement in which they agree to make their content publicly available to other users (Twitter, 2017), thus the data becomes publicly available. However, it is questionable if this can be considered informed consent as most users do not read the terms and agreement document at the time of signing up. To limit any inconsistencies with informed consent no personal data and or tweets from private users were included in this research.
PUBLIC DOMAIN DATA Informed consent is not the only ethical issue that arose when carrying out the research in this thesis, social media is part of what can be called the ‘public domain’, and all information provided to social media sites become available to everyone (Cambridge Dictionary, 2018). Meaning that the information found on these
38 sites is freely accessible to anyone to gather and interpret. However, as previously discussed twitter does not allow for large samples of data analysis to be gathered directly, one common way to circumvent this is by using a third-party source which grants you part of their stored data which can be access through a paywall. The legitimacy of these websites can be questioned since the process these websites use to gather their data may not be legitimate. This meant that no third-party sources where used to gather the data in this paper. Therefore, the only way to access data is to create a personal account and manually collecting data. By manually gathering the sample data any legal issues surrounding the data collection was avoided. Furthermore, to limit privacy infringement all tweets featured in this paper are from the public profiles of journalists and public organisations, no private accounts where included by name or images of their posted tweets.
COPYRIGHT This research paper relied heavily on sampling newspaper articles to create a small database of data and analysing the content of selected articles. Which meant that the ethical and legal issues in including data on publicly published news articles had to also be considered. While the data was gathered from the public records of Twitter, and the articles sourced through scholarly access on Factiva, there are some issues to be considered about how this data can be used for scholarly research. News organisations may be part of the public domain on the Internet, but their terms of services disclose that all articles published on their platforms are copyrighted and can only be used for personal use, and not in any way be reproduce commercially (Washington Post, 2018; Dawn, 2018). Pointedly, Copyright is a law that was created to grant protection to cultural makers, and to foster the continuous creation of culture. This production is formed by limiting the way that artistic and cultural works can be produced, literary works for example are automatically granted copy right from the time they are written for either fifty or hundred-fifty years. If the author is a natural person then copy right is granted for fifty years, and if the author is an organisation it is granted for hundred-fifty years (US Legal, 2018). The articles sampled in this thesis either had stated natural authors for the articles, and if no author was mentioned then the organisation carried ownership, which clearly means that all articles included in this research are under copyright. Hence, Copyright laws limits the way that work can be reproduced, but there are ways to bypass these limitations - one such way is fair use. Fair use is a feature that allows for portions of copy righted work to be used without permission or payment under specific conditions. Two such conditions are; the work is “transformed” into something else than the original and not repeated, and an appropriate amount of the work is sampled in part and not in whole (Jaszi & Aufderheide, 2010). By utilising the fair use principle, the copy righted works included in this research are appropriately sampled and included to not infringe on the copy right of the news organisations.
39 PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS OF RESULTS This section will present the resulting findings from the research carried out in this paper. As previously stated the overarching research question of this paper is ‘to what extent was international newspapers influenced, in any way, by their audience’s agency on Twitter about the Rohingya Crisis?’. To answer this question the paper will be focusing on firstly answering the four minor research questions that was presented previously in section 5.
Each question will be dealt with in methodological fashion and discussed regarding current research literature as well as the findings in this paper. The section will also investigate in detail the presumed relationship that may exist between audience agency and social media and how it can be identified through qualitative and quantitative indicators. When studying the causes of the increased number of articles surrounding the Rohingya crisis this paper employs a qualitative approach by doing a content analysis. By conducting audience research on the effects of said causes this paper hope to gain insightful understanding on the topic. Concurrently, a strange relationship exists between mass media and social media. A co-dependency has developed between the growth and importance of social media, along with the increased use of smart devices, mass media and social media. This further resulting in a declining economic revenue from journalism has opened opportunities for audience influence, especially as the consumer represents the ultimate economic capital for journalists (Edson, 2014). A product of this dependency is audience dissemination, which grew out of the mass increase in social media use as a tool to connect and communicate with friends and family. As previously mention audience dissemination is a term that implies that audiences share news content within their social networks, and this simple action can directly affect the extent of cover a news story receives (Thornson, 2008). Traditionally the power given to editors and journalists to determine what stories are ‘news worthy’ is called gatekeeping, and by analysing their audience’s behaviour journalists have started to include news stories that are popular with their audiences.
During the first two weeks of September 2017 the hashtag “#rohingya” actively grew on the media platform Twitter (depicted in diagram 8.1). While it had been active prior to this time, it started to reach widespread attention at this point – indicating an actively increasing interest for the Rohingya crisis. This increase in interest was matched by the increased news cover. As visualised in diagram 8.5 the number of articles published in international news gained momentum throughout the first two weeks of September to reach its How has contemporary news stories been impacted by the evolving perspective as shared on online platforms such as Twitter, and in which regard has this concurrent multi-platform evolution impacted the development narrative.
40 cumulative point on the 14th of September. So, while official reports have been documenting the genocide throughout 2017 it was not until these two weeks that the world news started paying attention to the crisis, as evident in diagram 8.2 which shows the total news cover of 2017. Diagram 8.1 depicts the increasing number of tweets including the hashtag “Rohingya” during the first two weeks of September. Diagram 8.2 shows the distribution of published articles in September 2017. The graph shows that the number of articles published in 2017 peaked on September 14th , 2017, with 118 published articles.
20 40 60 80 100 120 140 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 Number of articles published Date Articles published September 2017 New York Times Washington Post USA today Times of India New York Post Guardian Wall Street Journal China Daily Dawn Mail Online People´s Daily Daily Mail Daily Telegraph The Independent Financial Times CNN Daily Mirror Sydney Morning Herald The Times The Economist 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 30-Aug 1-Sep 3-Sep 5-Sep 7-Sep 9-Sep 11-Sep 13-Sep 15-Sep Number of tweets Day of the month #Rohingya
41 At the beginning of September 2014 barely any articles where being published by the twenty international news organisations analysed in this paper. Yet, on Twitter there was already an interest for the story which was rapidly increasing with every passing day. Diagram 8.3 depicts the yearly coverage of the Rohingya crisis by twenty international newspapers in 2017. In August 2017 NGO reports where coming in that there was a mass move of refugees across the borders of Myanmar trying to escape persecution, yet as these diagrams show the Rohingya crisis did not become a large news story until the end of the first week of September. Unlike the positively skewed diagram of published articles in September, the diagrams showing the distribution of audience interactions across all tweets by newspapers in September is negatively skewed. (Illustrated in diagram 8.4-8.9). 500 1000 1500 2000 Number of articles published Month of the year Articles published per month 2017 New York Times Washington Post USA today Times of India New York Post Guardian Wall Street Journal China Daily Dawn Mail Online People´s Daily Daily Mail Daily Telegraph The Independent Financial Times CNN Daily Mirror Sydney Morning Herald The Times The Economist
42 Diagram 1.4 depicts the average number of retweets per day received by ten international newspapers during a two-week period in September 2017. Diagram 8.5 depicts the average number of likes per day received by ten international newspapers during a two-week period in September 2017. 500 1000 1500 2000 1-Sep 2-Sep 3-Sep 4-Sep 5-Sep 6-Sep 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep 13-Sep 14-Sep Average number of retweets Times of India CNN The Times The New York Times The Independent Dawn Wall Street Journal Washington Post Daily Mail Financial Times 200 400 600 800 1000 1-Sep 2-Sep 3-Sep 4-Sep 5-Sep 6-Sep 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep 13-Sep 14-Sep Average number of likes Times of India CNN The Times The New York Times The Independent Dawn Wall Street Journal Washington Post Daily Mail Financial Times
43 Diagram 8.6 depicts the average number of subtweets received by ten international newspapers during a two-week period in September 2017 CONTENT ANALYSIS This section will present a content analysis on fourteen different articles sampled from seven different online newspaper sources on the first, seventh and fourteenth of September 2017. The analysis will be supported through arguments in conjunction with the use of several academic sources to form a cohesive and in-depth argument regarding audience reactions and behaviours.
Contemporary news organisations operate under a commercial framework which primarily aims to gather monetary revenue which is achieved mainly via sponsorship deals and advertisements within their websites. This said, the monetary income of the organisation is affected by the view count and click rate within their site. As such, by maximising view counts and click rates organisation maximise their potential revenue, and thus to gain larger audiences, many news corporations have opened social media accounts (such as Twitter), to enhance connectability and their brand awareness. Mainly, this is achieved through the insertion of hyperlinks in tweets connected to specific news articles published on the website. In so, news organisation is able to divert traffic from social media directly to their websites. Nevertheless, to redirect audiences the article in question have to be interesting enough for audiences to want to click it.
100 200 300 400 500 600 1-Sep 2-Sep 3-Sep 4-Sep 5-Sep 6-Sep 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep 13-Sep 14-Sep Number of subtweets Times of India CNN The Times The New York Times The Independent Dawn Wall Street Journal Washington Post Daily Mail Financial Times To what extent is the public’s interaction, with news on Twitter affecting newspapers and how they construct their content and priorities?
44 Table 8.1 shows the number of articles which were linked by each newspaper on their Twitter page on the first, seventh and fourteenth of September 2017. As demonstrated by Table 8.2, a single article was sampled from ten newspapers across three different dates, totalling at a cumulative fourteen articles for data sampling. The articles sampled can be found in the appendices. The results of the content analysis found that two categories were featured the most within news articles; human rights/civil liberty (85.7%) and human migration (78.5%) respectively. This followed by 57.1% of articles featuring content about international relations and terrorism. Typically, these articles discussed the size of the Rohingya population threatened and brought attention to their deprivation of human rights including ongoing violence. Additionally, the articles discussed contrasting claims by the Myanmar government that the Rohingya population had terrorist organisations within them, and the denouement of any involvement in this by the Rohingya population.
In contrast, Tweets recorded within the dataset, relied heavily on civil right and liberty content (70%) and human migration (60%). Featured articles focused more heavily on the individuals themselves rather than how the crisis was evolving, and there was a distinct lean towards reporting on the mishandling of the situation by Aung San Suu Kyi. Notably, of the 60% of Tweets within the data set that included a image, it was not evident within the study that this decidedly increased the chance of a tweet being retweeted or gaining more NAME DATE 1/9 7/9 14/9 Times of India 0 2 1 CNN 0 1 2 The Times 0 1 3 The New York Times 0 0 0 The Independent 3 1 4 Dawn 2 0 1 Wall Street Journal 0 0 2 Washington Post 0 1 3 Daily Mail 0 0 0 Financial Times 0 0 0
45 popularity. However, the three articles that gained over a thousand retweets and subsequently were the most popular of the entire dataset (figure 8.1,8.2, and 8.3) all focused on the atrocities faced by the Rohingya.11 Figure 8.1 shows the New York Times most retweeted tweet from September 4th 2017. Figure 8.2 shows the most retweeted tweet from the Independent from September 4th 2017. 11 They all included hyperlinks that redirected users to the news website.
46 Figure 8.3 shows the Washington Posts most retweeted tweet regarding the Rohingya crisis in September 2017. The three articles highlighted above, were all released within the first week of September which marked the crisis outbreak in 2017. As such the attention of twitter was at its peak during this time, and audiences where more likely to seek out and read more about the crisis. The reason for this type of audience behaviour can be explained through uses and gratifications theory, which provides an expanded understanding as to why these emotional stories were more likely to be retweeted than their more informative counterparts. Additionally, these results demonstrate this theory in regard to how based on this emotional subtext, audiences actively sought specific media to suit their personal needs.
By not assuming that audience members are passive recipients, but rather, active audiences with their own agency the theory explains how individuals can actively choose specific forms of media to fulfil their entertainment, relaxation, social interaction, and knowledge needs. Furthermore, the theory profess that media sources are actively competing with other informative sources for audience’s gratification. This is shown in the correlation between Blumel & Katz (1974) theory and the collective data set which targets audiences
47 on an emotional level to enhance their desire to actively seek out more knowledge on the topic, this is illustrated in the number of articles which focuses on intrinsically humanitarian and emotional themes such as civil and human liberty and human migration. Therefore, it can be said that international news organisation was actively trying to fulfil the knowledge gratification of their users by tapping into an emerging story and providing the desired informative content, as illustrated in the growing number of articles published in September 2017.
Contemporary media consumers take on different roles in regards to their consumption behaviour. As discussed previously in the analytical framework section 5.2 the modern social media user can be labeled a ‘browsers’ as they personally curate what type of content they want to consume with a broad spectrum of accounts. In this regard/this said, users are more likely to follow newspapers that align with their political positions, and re-post articles that they enjoy and agree with. Therefore, this wide breadth of followed accounts users are highly likely to show an article that featured information about the Rohingya crisis. Hence, the high number of retweets exponentially exposed other users on Twitter which were alerted that something was happening in Myanmar.
The act of sharing a new story now allows users to participate in the diffusion of large international news stories, and it has growing importance both socially, economically and internationally (Lee & Ma, 2012). There are several reasons behind why a user may decide to retweet something, two motivational drivers for example are: status attainment (getting attention), and future retrieval, which have been found to be two major causes behind why people share news. Moreover, emotional influences are evidenced as a major motivational factor (Goh et. al., 2009).
In relation to the three above mentioned tweets, all three heavily play on the atrocities faced by the Rohingya and present powerful and impactful news very early on. At this time the news about the crisis where starting to emerge, and the different motivational drivers of twitter users could help explain the high number of retweets. There are a number of potential factors as to why this occurred including the potential that certain users re-posted for social gratification (personal attention), political acclimatization, or status/statement update,, whereas, other may have shared on the basis of personal emotional impact, and/or sharing support/raise awareness. Notably, others may have shared these stories for seeking further information (future retrieval). These factors are of course not mutually exclusive and come hand in hand, but it is important to note that the gratifications sought and achieved by sharing these news stories may indeed be fulfilled for some users.
Therefore, to conclude; the results show what type of news were being published during the first two weeks of September 2017, and what type of content was most likely to be retweeted. The analysis of this content
48 indicates causational factors in which garnered audience attention, as indicated via retweet numbers, interestingly however, the data gathered on the type of content shared by news organisations over that period exemplified a mix of informative, and emotionally triggering articles. As such, the articles in the beginning of the news cycle where more emotionally laden and focused on gaining the attention of ‘browsing’ users whilst comparatively, later content was released for the ‘selector’ users who were specifically interested in the Rohingya topic. By initially focusing on the ‘browsing type’ of audience members, news organisations are able to fulfill the knowledge gratification of said sub-group, and the corporate interest in gaining new audiences, by providing a mix of informative and emotional content. Thus, this correlates with the popularity of re-tweet numbers and audience attention at the time, and strongly plays into theory of different motivational drivers behind online news content. It is recognised however, the information gathered from this data set does not present enough material to draw conclusive assumptions and will therefore be carried over into the next section to further develop the argument.
As previously discussed there are several so called ‘determinants of international news’ that somewhat indicate what stories are considered newsworthy and interesting for readers. These determinants have traditionally been divided into two camps, an event oriented approach and a contextual approach. The former is concerned with the nature of an international news event, and the latter in the contextual characteristics of the involved countries (Golan, 2009). Within these two camps there is a multitude of different factors that act as determinants such as, the potential for social change deviance, relevance to the United States, population, cultural affinity, location within the world system, geographic distance from the US, and various economic factors (Golan, 2009). This analysis will focus on analysing geographic, cultural affinity, location in the world system, normative deviance, and potential for social change, as factors that could potentially explain why the Rohingya Crisis became of international attention.
This content analysis performed in this paper can be positioned within a context of determinants of international news to further the analysis what compels news organisations to publish certain stories. The main determinant of international news tends to be the geographic proximity between the country where the event takes place and the country where the news is published and read. The proximity between India and Through the content analysis presentation of the Rohingya Crisis in online media: How has predisposed determinants of normative interaction with international news by the common populace, as presented by Golan, impacted how the Rohingya Crisis evolved to become a matter of importance within multi-platform news broadcasts.
49 Myanmar would explain why the Times of India published the highest number of articles relating to the Rohingya during the first two weeks of September 2017, however, in relation to western countries, Myanmar is not near and have therefore not been of large interest prior to 2017. An international news event is more likely to be viewed as newsworthy if the event occurred in a country with similar culture to that of the publishing country. Most of the newspapers analysed in this paper where from Anglo-Saxon countries (table 8.1) which would not explain the wide attention given to the Rohingya crisis as there is few similarities between the two cultures. Along this line, the location in the world system is also a negative determinant as Myanmar is far down in the hierarchy of nations, unlike the United States which as a hegemonic power receives far more international news cover than Myanmar.
The potential for social change deviance factor on the other hand could bring further insight into why the conflict in Myanmar gained international attention. In short, this determinant can be understood as the “extent to which an event violated the status quo in the country in which it occurred” (Golan, 2009:127). If a crisis is threatening the status quo within a country, or pose a challenge through ideological alternatives, it presents more opportunity for social change. In the context of the Rohingya, the status quo the pre-conceived idea that rule under Aung san Suu Kyi would be peaceful, inclusive and work towards human rights for all as compared to the previous military junta regime. By wilfully attacking a peaceful minority within their own country, Myanmar is threatening the international status quo of human rights. However, the news stories published surrounding the Rohingya focused on the wide scale human rights abuses, forced migration, and international relations and terrorism – all factors that are attacking the core norms within American society, thus making the Rohingya Crisis a newsworthy international news story because of its normative deviance. Readers from around the world are impacted and interested in how a regime ruled by a Nobel Peace laureate could a mass such extreme human rights abuses and actively defy what is considered international norms of human society. The atrocious human rights abuses of the state against a religious minority group, normative deviance, along with the pre-conceived idea of rule under a Nobel Peace Laureate, social change deviance, came together to form a news story that shocked and enticed the international news publishing world. AUDIENCE RESEARCH This section will focus on cross analysing the data gathered from Factiva and Twitter and analyse changes in the amount of content produces across both platforms. These changes will be analysed and explained through factors such as audience fragmentation, audience dissemination and audience feedback.
50 Within the structure and agency framework the focus remains on to what extent individuals have agency over their own actions and to what extent societal structures affect these decisions. Unger (2004) theorised that while structure does indeed limit the actions of the individual, they still have the power to resist such these limitations and rise above their social capacity. Within the context of this essay, structure is the factors that prevent individuals from interacting and making active decisions with their news consumption. For example, when news where only published in newspapers and through tv segments individuals could only access mainstream media as their source of consumption. Social media has therefore allowed users to make an active choice via imposing their agency through their news consumption. Whilst prior to social media, audiences had very little choice in what news they consumed, they can now actively curate their news consumption to fit with their needs and desires. This said, this section demonstrates the correlation within social media that has allowed audiences to influence what stories are granted more coverage in the news because of audience fragmentation, audience dissemination, and audience feedback.
Diagram 8-10 are showing the average distribution of various forms of audience interaction available on twitter: retweeting a published tweet from a newspaper, liking in, or engaging in discussion by sub tweeting it. The negative distribution of audience engagement indicates that the audience of the newspapers where engaging more with the Rohingya crisis topic at the beginning of September 2017, rather than at the top of newspaper coverage around September 14th . Linking this data distribution back to the theoretical debate on audience agency a few deductions can be made.
AUDIENCE FRAGMENTATION Firstly, as audiences have greater choice and variety of sources and mediums for news consumptions, along with the rapid decrease in revenue for journalism in general, news organisations need to find a way to regain and retain their audiences. This is done by publishing articles that are currently interesting for audiences and target their desire to engage and learn more about the topic. Diagram 6 shows the number of tweets per day dedicated to #rohingya during the first two weeks in September 2017, thus showing that there was a growing interest in the topic.
IN WHAT WAY HAVE THE TACTICS BY BROADCAST PRODUCERS, SUCH AS FRAGMENTATION, DISSEMINATION AND AUDIENCE FEEDBACK, AFFECTED THE CUMULATIVE VARIABLES WITHIN IN NEWS STORIES AND THE PRESENTATION OF WHOLE NEWS SOURCES. THIS SAID, HOW HAS NEW MEDIA PRODUCTION CATERED TO THE POPULARIZATION OF SPECIFIC STORIES ON CERTAIN?
51 This relationship is evidenced in diagram 8, 10 and 6. At the beginning of September 2017 audiences were more likely to retweet and subtweet articles published around the Rohingya crisis compared to later in the month. As newspapers picked up on this with their social media analytical tools (include source here) more articles where being published on the topic, as evidenced with the rapid increase in news coverage from September 4th onwards. AUDIENCE DISSEMINATION Secondly, audience dissemination is developing an increasing importance with news organisations of whom now reroute traffic to their website to regain their audiences and increase their revenues (Rudat & Buder, 2015). This behaviour is also encouraged by Twitter which allows users to share and retweet things that they enjoy or would like to share with their followers. This ability within the user interface thus acts as a source of information to within personal social networks and allows users to gain a sense of agency over the content on the website (Oeldorf-Hirsch, & Shayam, 2015). For example, when a user shares a news story through a retweet they are exponentially increasing the chance that a story will be read by another user, compared to the chance of a user seeing the story on the website.
Because of this, interaction within news has become critical to website traffic by which news organisations are focusing more and more on linking news stories that are likely to be shared by their audience (Webster, 2014b). This does not mean that the articles are becoming sensationalist, but rather that news organisations are specifically sharing articles on stories that are popular at the time. Audiences where actively interested in the Rohingya story early September 2017, and this interest then declined around September 5th , acting as an indicator for news organisations who would then drastically reduce their news cover a week later by September 14th . As a result, audience dissemination did potentially influence the decision to publish more stories on the Rohingya Crisis.
AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Today most, if not all, newspapers and news organisations have a verified twitter account for sharing their news stories and to feature breaking news. Their account functions as an extension of their news reporting practices and allow users to stumble upon news in their curated feeds rather than actively searching for it through either search engines such as google or news websites specifically. This paper featured ten international newspapers that all had varying sizes of twitter followers, ranging from 42million to 623 thousand as detailed in table 8.3.
52 @USERNAME ON TWITTER NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS ON TWITTER (MILLION) NUMBER OF TWEETS (THOUSANDS) Times of India timesofindia 11.3 382 CNN CNN 40.4 183 The Times thetimes 1.11 172 The New York Times nytimes 42.1 320 The Independent Independent 2.51 703 Dawn dawn_com 0.623 136 Wall Street Journal WSJ 15.8 243 Washington Post WashingtonPost 12.6 269 Daily Mail MailOnline 2.23 236 Financial Times FinancialTimes 6.07 228 Table 8.2 shows the ten newspapers which featured the highest number of articles on the Rohingya crisis and their Twitter usernames, number of followers and number of tweeted tweets. However, unlike the dissemination factor, audience feedback did not seem to influence news coverage. At the start of September, the Times of India, the Washington Post and the New York Times where all receiving high number of average likes for articles they posted, but this only happened on one separate occasion for each newspaper. This could also be attributed to the fact that these accounts have a high number of followers and picked up the new story early, thus figuring as a type of ‘breaking news source’ for many of their followers. For the remainder of the month the number of likes progressively increased into a positively skewed pattern that more closely correlated the number of published articles in September. Ultimately audience fragmentation, dissemination and feedback on their own would not be enough to establish a correlation between social media and the number of articles published in international news. However, if analysed together as a whole they provide an indication of the general interest of the audience base on Twitter – which in turn can have influence the number of articles that was published on the Rohingya crisis in September 2017.
53 CONCLUSION This paper has presented a study on the influence of audience behavior on Twitter and the resulting potential impacts on news broadcasting. The aim of this research was to examine/explore audience agency within the role of virilization as a causal factor within the publication of news. This was achieved through a two-step process; content analysis on published articles and the resulting effects of influence by consumers. The results of this study showed the correlation between audience reaction, quantity of articles and theme of articles published. As such, quantitative analysis of the Twitter data-set exemplified certain factors of audience behaviour such as fragmentation, dissemination and feedback. Through audience interaction, it was thus shown that the was a rapid increase in news coverage of the Rohingya crisis12, attributed to the audience behaviour on Twitter. These findings were then carried over into the qualitative research part of this paper which indicated factors such as audience fragmentation and dissemination may indeed have some influence on this relationship.
It is recognised however, that the correlations shown within the research may only be topically-causational, and that for a comprehensive theory to be established further research into the topic is necessary. In retrospect, this paper would have benefitted from two things: Firstly, a more expanded approach when gathering data from Twitter, which would have created an average median use of the verified social media accounts in order to accurately compare the degree in which account behaviour changed during early September 2017. Secondly, the size of the sample for the content analysis was too small to present valid interpretations of the result.
Arguably, this research was able to accomplish its goal of bringing awareness to agency influence over international news publishing, however, it rose more questions than it could answer. Whilst the uses and gratifications approach could somewhat explain why certain articles were shared, from the point of view of news twitter accounts, a more in depth and valuable understanding could have been gained by performing interviews targeting audience members. The interviews would help to understand specific audience members news consumption patterns; i.e. selectors or browsers, and then analyse their specific news interaction on twitter. In so, a more valid conclusions in regards to why audiences select to read certain articles, i.e. fulfilling their specific gratifications, can be reached. Furthermore, by carrying over the research framework of this paper on to future international crisis news cover comparisons can be made why certain crises reached international attention and why others do not. Thus, both of these potential studies would presumably further increase the knowledge around social media agency as an emerging field.
12 Within the first two weeks of September 2017.
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