Indian Journalists’ reach on Twitter during the COVID-19 crisis

Dibyendu Mishra, Joyojeet Pal

(Suggested Citation: Mishra, D., Pal, J. (2020) Indian Journalists’ reach on Twitter during the COVID-19 crisis. Available online at:

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
1 dhanyarajendran ShefVaidya sardesairajdeep
2 ShekharGupta sudhirchaudhary bhogleharsha
3 VidyaKrishnan SushantBSinha BDUTT
4 Svaradarajan RanaAyyub rahulkanwal
5 Suhasinih sardanarohit virsanghvi
6 BDUTT PJkanojia sagarikaghose
7 Nistula Profdilipmandal sudhirchaudhary
8 sharmasupriya DChaurasia2312 sardanarohit
9 Vijaita ippatel RajatSharmaLive
10 rohini_sgh UnSubtleDesi anjanaomkashyap
11 free_thinker SureshChavhanke vikramchandra
12 arvindgunasekar sardesairajdeep DeShobhaa
13 sardesairajdeep anjanaomkashyap ShekharGupta
14 someshjha7 Shehzad_Ind SwetaSinghAT
15 Seemay Ajitanjum PritishNandy
16 RanaAyyub AdityaRajKaul ppbajpai
17 DilliDurAst AshrafFem RubikaLiyaquat
18 SreenivasanJain zoo_bear anupamachopra
19 ShivAroor dhruv_rathee gauravcsawant
20 Nidhi RubikaLiyaquat RajeevMasand

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.


Temporal Patterns

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.

We see that there is a larger agglomeration of some of the bigger bubbles along the right end of the graph — thus Rahul Kanwal, Rajdeep Sardesai, and Sreenivasan Jain were highly influential with both the general public and other journalists in this period. But we also see here, a couple of small bubbles – @seemay and @RohanV, which have a small number of followers but is extremely influential among other journalists, but does not appear as significantly in general public retweets. Similarly @ippatel is an account with small following that consistently gets highly retweeted in the general public.


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
1 saahilmenghani saahilmenghani
2 parthpunter rajshekharTOI
3 VidyaKrishnan VidyaKrishnan
4 scribe_prashant scribe_prashant
5 Zebaism Zebaism
6 RohanV anantvijay
7 alok_pandey sohitmishra99
8 navinjournalist navinjournalist
9 sengarlive sengarlive
10 somyalakhani zafarabbaszaidi
11 A2D2_ sidhant
12 capt_ivane capt_ivane
13 abantika77 alok_pandey
14 KhurafatiChopra niranjan2428
15 rubberneckin parthpunter
16 sneheshphilip sneheshphilip
17 soutikBBC Benarasiyaa
18 adityatiwaree adityatiwaree
19 suchitrav suchitrav
20 Benarasiyaa Saurabh_Unmute
21 NairShilpa1308 DeepalTrevedie
22 tjoseph0010 tjoseph0010
23 someshjha7 someshjha7
24 LangaMahesh LangaMahesh
25 utkarsh_aanand utkarsh_aanand
26 MathewLiz rsrobin1
27 UrmileshJ UrmileshJ
28 Mohansinha Mohansinha
29 PoulomiMSaha PoulomiMSaha
30 anusharavi10 devpromoth
31 NihaMasih NihaMasih
32 Teensthack MrityunjayUP
33 ArchisMohan Bhayankur
34 ShoaibDaniyal baxiabhishek
35 mahajournalist mahajournalist
36 thakur_shivangi thakur_shivangi
37 AnjaliMody1 MeghaSPrasad
38 sidhant AshishSinghNews
39 JatinPaul saurabh3vedi
40 DeepalTrevedie rohanduaTOI
41 manaman_chhina manaman_chhina
42 omjasvinMD payalmehta100
43 nambath RizviUzair
44 baxiabhishek NairShilpa1308
45 hemantrajora_ AsimAli6
46 NPDay TanyaYadav128
47 nit_set nit_set
48 sang1983 sang1983
49 DeeptimanTY bharath1
50 vrsrini Masratzahra


Relative Importance 

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
1 VidyaKrishnan Profdilipmandal
2 vijaita zoo_bear
3 sharmasupriya AshrafFem
4 arvindgunasekar umashankarsingh
5 DilliDurAst SaketGokhale
6 zoo_bear ashokshrivasta6
7 seemay vikasbhaABP
8 someshjha7 Iyervval
9 SaketGokhale jyotiyadaav
10 samar11 TheSamirAbbas
11 AmanKayamHai_ET akhileshsharma1
12 saahilmenghani AdityaMenon22
13 SushantSin DilliDurAst
14 prempanicker IMinakshiJoshi
15 AdityaMenon22 arvindgunasekar
16 satishacharya jgopikrishnan70
17 samjawed65 satishacharya
18 RohanV AartiTikoo
19 rupasubramanya palkisu
20 vasudha_ET JournoAshutosh



We analysed 1.6M tweets from the accounts of 3906 most-followed self-identified journalists on Twitter over the last 5 months (January – May 2020). There were approximately 2441 Indian journalists and 1465 international journalists among these. This list was populated through a seed set of journalists initially populated using the media accounts most followed by politicians. We then expanded the earlier list by including the Twitter friends of the seeded journalists and including from those verified journalists and those we did a ground truth test on using human coders.
Influence Analysis
We use 3 different measures to gauge influetial journalists in our database. We first use the number of followers(i1) to understand how many people get updates about the user on their timeline regularly. Now, other users could also retweet the posts and pass it along to their followers. So, we also keep a track of the number of retweets(i2) gained by the user on a post, as a measure of influence. Lastly, we also keep track of other journalists who retweeted(i3) a particular post as a measure of influence because … Since these measures independently wouldn’t be a strong measure, we use Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient to measure the strength of association of the 3 influence metrics to arrive at a score. We find that there is a significant correlation between i1 and i2 and i1 and i3. We utilise this knowledge to construct two scores r1 and r2. r1 = (1/rank(i1))*(1/rank(i3)), r2 =(1/rank(i1))*(1/rank(i2)). These scores are directly proportional to the influence a journalist has. Our methodology builds on the work of Cha et. al to measure influence of individual Twitter accounts [1]
This study has some important limitations in terms of the actual value this accords to various metrics. The most important, is that activity on Twitter in and of itself is not an adequate indicator of an individual’s influence on the news cycle or on opinion itself. It is one among many others. Mastering social media also requires a certain sensibility with short form output, which many influential commentators may not have. Second, we do not have a good way of measuring the political valence of individual commentators’ messages and their popularity — ie whether someone is being rewarded through retweets online because of pre-existing public agreement with their positions.
Rank Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20
1 seemay saahilmenghani dhanyarajendran VidyaKrishnan BDUTT
2 SreenivasanJain ShekharGupta VidyaKrishnan dhanyarajendran svaradarajan
3 suhasinih RanaAyyub ShekharGupta svaradarajan dhanyarajendran
4 vijaita arvindgunasekar sharmasupriya BDUTT vijaita
5 someshjha7 Nidhi nistula nistula someshjha7
6 ShekharGupta seemay ShivAroor ShekharGupta LangaMahesh
7 sardesairajdeep suhasinih suhasinih suhasinih nistula
8 SushantSin sharmasupriya sardesairajdeep vijaita ShekharGupta
9 free_thinker free_thinker arvindgunasekar rohini_sgh VidyaKrishnan
10 rohini_sgh rohini_sgh svaradarajan free_thinker rohini_sgh
11 rahulkanwal dhanyarajendran someshjha7 sardesairajdeep sharmasupriya
12 dhanyarajendran sardesairajdeep BDUTT arvindgunasekar parthpunter
13 arvindgunasekar SreenivasanJain free_thinker zoo_bear free_thinker
14 DilliDurAst zoo_bear rohini_sgh LangaMahesh suhasinih
15 svaradarajan vijaita vijaita sharmasupriya DilliDurAst
16 Nidhi svaradarajan alok_pandey parthpunter zoo_bear
17 RohanV Zebaism AdityaRajKaul waglenikhil DeepalTrevedie
18 prempanicker fayedsouza samar11 AmanKayamHai_ET saahilmenghani
19 nistula nistula seemay RanaAyyub bainjal
20 sharmasupriya nilanjanaroy DilliDurAst ShivAroor tjoseph0010

Table 2: India’s most influential journalists on Twitter based on in-network influence (retweeting by other journalists)

Rank Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20
1 ShefVaidya RanaAyyub SushantBSinha ShefVaidya sudhirchaudhary
2 Ippatel SushantBSinha RanaAyyub anjanaomkashyap ShefVaidya
3 Sudhirchaudhary AshrafFem ShefVaidya Sardanarohit ippatel
4 dhruv_rathee PJkanojia Sardanarohit RajatSharmaLive DChaurasia2312
5 Profdilipmandal sudhirchaudhary sardesairajdeep DChaurasia2312 PJkanojia
6 SushantBSinha vinodkapri AdityaRajKaul SushantBSinha zoo_bear
7 UnSubtleDesi dhruv_rathee Shehzad_Ind Profdilipmandal SureshChavhanke
8 sardesairajdeep sardanarohit UnSubtleDesi PJkanojia Profdilipmandal
9 TheDeshBhakt SureshChavhanke sudhirchaudhary zoo_bear SushantBSinha
10 Rahulroushan UnSubtleDesi anjanaomkashyap Shehzad_Ind RanaAyyub
11 RanaAyyub abhisar_sharma ShivAroor RubikaLiyaquat sardanarohit
12 PJkanojia TheDeshBhakt AshrafFem RanaAyyub rohini_sgh
13 Sardanarohit Profdilipmandal RubikaLiyaquat SureshChavhanke umashankarsingh
14 SaketGokhale swati_gs PJkanojia swati_gs UnSubtleDesi
15 Shehzad_Ind sakshijoshii ajitanjum chitraaum anjanaomkashyap
16 Ajitanjum fayedsouza SureshChavhanke ajitanjum AdityaRajKaul
17 rohini_sgh sardesairajdeep KanchanGupta ippatel AMISHDEVGAN
18 Rahulkanwal ajitanjum AMISHDEVGAN sudhirchaudhary ajitanjum
19 Vinodkapri BDUTT chitraaum sardesairajdeep bainjal
20 Bainjal zoo_bear RajatSharmaLive UnSubtleDesi Shehzad_Ind

Table 3: India’s most influential journalists on Twitter based on out-network influence (overall retweet rate online)


M Cha, H Haddadi, F Benevenuto, Gummadi, K.  (2010) Measuring user influence in twitter: The million follower fallacy. Fourth International AAAI conference on weblogs and social media.