Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Reading Twitter in the Newsroom: How Social Media Affects Traditional-Media Reporting of Conflicts

Author(s): Sophie Hatte, Etienne Madinier and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya

Publication Date: May 2021

Keyword(s): Conflicts, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, social media, traditional media and Twitter

Programme Area(s): Development Economics and Public Economics

Abstract: Social media changes traditional-media news on conflicts. Online posts by citizen journalists-first-hand witnesses of conflict events-change the extent, tonality, and content of traditional-media reporting of conflicts. Using an exogenous and excludable variation in social-media posts in Israel and Palestine, driven by internet outages as a result of lightning strikes and technical failures, we show that, when social media in the conflict zone is not muted by internet outages, conflict news stories on US TV are more numerous and longer. Text analyses reveal that these stories have higher emotional intensity and focus more on the suffering of civilians and less on the role of US foreign policy or elections. The results suggest that social-media-driven democratization of the conflict news, i.e., the shift of focus from information provided by war gatekeepers to information from ordinary people, helps the narrative on the side of the conflict that has more civilian casualties.

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Bibliographic Reference

Hatte, S, Madinier, E and Zhuravskaya, E. 2021. 'Reading Twitter in the Newsroom: How Social Media Affects Traditional-Media Reporting of Conflicts'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.