For the study data regarding social media (blogs and Twitter), PEJ employed a combination of traditional media research methods, based on long-standing rules regarding content analysis, along with computer coding software developed by Crimson Hexagon. This report is based on an examination of more than 7 million tweets and 25,000 blog posts in order to look at the amount and frame of the conversation related to the death of Trayvon Martin.
Almost immediately after the February 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin, the conversation about the case began simmering on Twitter. But it was nearly three weeks later, on March 17-after the release of 911 tapes-before the story exploded on Twitter, on blogs and in the mainstream media to become the first story of the year to get more coverage than the race for the president.
As attention to the story surged, the focus within these three parts of our media culture varied greatly, according to a special report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. On Twitter, the conversation has focused on sympathy for the slain teenager and expressions of outrage at the killing. On blogs, the emphasis has been on the role of race in the highly charged case. In the mainstream media, the Trayvon Martin controversy was heavily a cable news and talk radio story. And there, the primary discussion has focused on two politically oriented issues-gun control laws and the Florida Stand Your Ground statute, which gives citizens the right to use deadly force when they believe they are being threatened.
Moreover, the Martin story has been a much bigger story on MSNBC, whose talk show hosts are liberal, and a much smaller story on Fox, whose prime time lineup leans conservative. The focus of the discussion differs as well. Conservative talkers paid the most attention to questions about who Martin is and to the defense of the man who pulled the trigger, George Zimmerman. Liberal hosts focused primarily on gun control and the Florida law.
A Story that Took Two Weeks to Emerge
Travyon Martin, the 17-year-old African American walking home from a convenience store, was shot by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman on February 26. In the days immediately after, the shooting got more attention in social media than in the national mainstream press, though even on Twitter and in blogs the attention was still fairly modest.
That changed on March 17 after the release of 911 audio tapes of Zimmerman calling police who advised him not to follow Martin. The volume on Twitter doubled overnight and continued to rise for the next several days. The same thing happened in the blogosphere, where the discussion had been minimal at the outset.
To review the complete Pew Research findings please access the complete report here.
As always, we’ll continue analyzing the space for interesting trends. In the meantime, feel free contact us at [email protected] with questions.
Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) uses Crimson Hexagon ForSight™ Platform to Analyze Social Media Sources Covering the Story.