Dibyendu Mishra, Joyojeet Pal
(Suggested Citation: Mishra, D., Pal, J. (2020) Indian Journalists’ reach on Twitter during the COVID-19 crisis. Available online at: http://joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/indian-journalists-reach-on-twitter-during-the-covid-19-crisis/)
We mapped the reach of Indian journalists in the months leading up to, and following the COVID-19 crisis in India. The goal of this work was to understand the outreach of journalists in India, their relationship with reach among other journalists, and the impact of COVID on the popularity of their work online. For the purposes of this work, if an individual represents themselves as a journalist, we take that on face value, thus some of the individuals included in this list are commentators than journalists/ reporters.
Two influence metrics: popular among Twitter users versus among other journalists
We find first that there is a significant difference between the journalists who are retweeted by other journalists and those that are retweeted by the Twitter using population. Further, looking at the list of most followed Indian journalists online, we find that primarily those that are political journalists or commentators on matters of political concern tend to have higher ranking on these scales of influence.
From the list of top twenty most influential from both lists, only two accounts appear on both – @sardesairajdeep and @RanaAyyub — both get retweeted within the fraternity of journalists as well as outside of it. Only Rajdeep Sardesai appears in all three lists.
@DhanyaRajendran emerges as the most significantly retweeted among other journalists, consistently over several time periods, and has particularly emerged as the most retweeted journalist among journalists post-COVID, ranking in the top 5 each month since March. @ShefVaidya is the most influential on Twitter in general, in terms of overall retweets, placing in the top 3 most retweeted journalists for every month (see table further below).
Some journalists with a huge public footprint do not have as much purchase among other journalists. We find that some the accounts DChaurasia2312, ippatel and SureshChavhanke do not get widely retweeted by journalists – all rank outside of the top 500, but are highly influential among the general public for their messaging.
|Rank||Most retweeted by other journalists||Most retweeted in among Twitter users overall||Most followed on Twitter|
Table 1: Most influential Indian journalists from Jan-May 2020 based on retweets by other journalists or by Twitter users in general, and most followed online.
We looked at the patterns of influence among journalists by month between January and May 2020. Based on the number of retweets received from other journalists, retweets received in general and the number of tweets posted per month (cutoff = 20), we selected the top ~25 per month (Jan:28,March:19,Feb:23,April:24,May:28) and visualized them. The x axis represents the total retweets received by the journalist for that month and the y axis represents the total retweets received from other journalists. The size of the bubbles represent the number of followers the accounts have. The values on the axes were log10 scaled and the size of the bubbles were square root scaled.
In February, we see a bigger spread among in the placement of accounts — first, we find that @RanaAyyub is highly retweeted, but we also see the emergence of two important accounts – @saahilmenghani and @arvindgunasekar, both accounts with relatively small following which get a great deal of attention from other journalists. This is attributable to the Delhi riots around this time, and the coverage and Twitter activity of some of these accounts. For instance, @dhruv_rathee and @TheDeshBhakt, both unaffiliated with a news organization were highly influential in this period.
The most important trend in March 2020 is the emergence of @dhanyarajendran as by a massve gap (log scaled figure below) the most influential commentator among mainstream journalists. While @AdityaRajKaul and @ShivAroor were highly influential in this period, @sharmasupriya @VidyaKrishnan, relatively less followed but extremely important accounts for the coverage of health- and COVID-related commentary emerged as influential among other journalists.
A critical difference between the March and April 2020 spread is the appearance of polarization on the figure. We see several accounts that are highly tweeted in the general public – @ShefVaidya, @DChaurasia2312, @RajatSharmaLive, though these do not receive as much throughput among other journalists. This can be related to the high degree of polarization following the Nizamuddin Markaz COVID-related news and its aftermath. During this period @VidyaKrishnan emerges as the most retweeted journalist, primarily for health coverage done during this period.
Finally, in May 2020, we see the dominance of @BDUTT among other journalists, primarily for reportage on the road in the period when the migrant crisis grew most intense. Another interesting account in this period is that of @zoo_bear, which despite relatively low overall Twitter following, ranks highly both among general Twitter users and among other journalists. @Senthilvel79 is the only South Indian journalist in this figure, underlining the dominance of North Indian, and English-, and to a lesser extent Hindi-language content on Twitter influence networks.
High polarization on top, even spread among less followed journalists
We compiled a list of the journalists who had less than 30,000 followers (at the start of January 2020) but had very high impact in terms of their stories finding purchase among other journalists as well as among the general public. @saahilmenghani and @VidyaKrishnan both appear among the top 5 of both lists for the entire period of Jan-May 2020, but we see in this list that a number of the top 10 list are both highly retweeted among journalists and among the general population.
This raises an important difference between these list of the most followed journalists overall. While there is much polarization in the main list — with the leaders on one side such as @dhanyarajendran, @arvindgunasekar, @sharmasupriya getting relatively less attention in the general public in terms of retweets, giants on the other list like @sudhirchaudhary, @SushantBSinha, @RahulSinhaZee get relatively little attention from among other journalists.
Some accounts with fairly small following – in the range of 3000 followers or less include @parthpunter, @somyalakhani, @A2D2_, @rubberneckin, @Teensthack, @ArchisMohan, @AnjaliMody1, all of whom have a very significant footprint among journalists and the general public alike.
|Rank||Most retweeted by other journalists||Most retweeted in among Twitter users overall|
The relative rank classification is a good metric for understanding who are the “overperformers” in their respective groups. This helps us understand not just who are retweeted as a linear function of their following, but a weighted representation of their influence, given their following. More details in the methodogy section.
|Rank||Relative Rank: in-group importance||Relative Rank – out-group importance|
Table 2: India’s most influential journalists on Twitter based on in-network influence (retweeting by other journalists)
Table 3: India’s most influential journalists on Twitter based on out-network influence (overall retweet rate online)