Appropriating breaking news? The evolving Twitter coverage of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal

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Paper presented at IR14, Denver, CO. 25 October 2013.

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Appropriating breaking news? The evolving Twitter coverage of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal

  1. 1. Appropriating breaking news? The evolving Twitter coverage of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal Tim Highfield ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology | Curtin University Brisbane, Australia | Perth, Australia t.highfield @ qut.edu.au @timhighfield http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ | http://socialmedia.qut.edu.au
  2. 2. OVERVIEW • The Twitter coverage of, and response to, key events in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, August – January 2013 • Twitter as a medium for breaking, sharing, reframing news: – What types of news events provoke spikes in attention? – Do different types of news events foster different styles of coverage? – Are different types of users more or less prominent within the individual spikes?
  3. 3. METHODS • Previous data: – @lancearmstrong tracked as keyword during 2012 Tour de France for wider project into coverage of the race on Twitter • „armstrong‟ tracked as keyword using yourTwapperKeeper between August and March 2013 (some gaps) – Filtered and analysed using Gawk scripts
  4. 4. PROLOGUE • The 2012 Tour de France (June-July 2012) – Conflicting views about Armstrong‟s innocence • Reports as race begins that riders had testified against Armstrong • Fans use Twitter to support (variously) these riders, Armstrong; criticise others for (seemingly) supporting particular views • Extension of fan/athlete parasocial interaction on Twitter • As Tour continues, Armstrong fans protest USADA witch hunt, maintaining innocence until proven guilty
  5. 5. 1200000 1000000 800000 600000 24/8/2012 28/8/2012 1/9/2012 5/9/2012 9/9/2012 13/9/2012 17/9/2012 21/9/2012 25/9/2012 29/9/2012 3/10/2012 7/10/2012 11/10/2012 15/10/2012 19/10/2012 23/10/2012 27/10/2012 31/10/2012 4/11/2012 8/11/2012 12/11/2012 16/11/2012 20/11/2012 24/11/2012 28/11/2012 2/12/2012 6/12/2012 10/12/2012 14/12/2012 18/12/2012 22/12/2012 26/12/2012 30/12/2012 3/1/2013 7/1/2013 11/1/2013 15/1/2013 19/1/2013 23/1/2013 27/1/2013 31/1/2013 4/2/2013 8/2/2013 12/2/2013 16/2/2013 20/2/2013 24/2/2013 28/2/2013 4/3/2013 TIMEFRAME: “ARMSTRONG” KEYWORD 1400000 August 2012: USADA strips Armstrong of titles and results; Neil Armstrong dies. October 2012: Armstrong steps down from Livestrong; UCI accepts USADA findings January 2013: in interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstr ong confesses to doping during his TdF victories 400000 200000 0
  6. 6. SPIKE #1: USADA AFTERMATH, THE DEATH OF NEIL ARMSTRONG • Original tweets and RTs primarily here – limited @replying – Major mix of both dominant types after news about Neil Armstrong breaks – RTing reaction, posting original RIP/vale tweets 1400000 1200000 1000000 800000 Sum of retweets 600000 Sum of genuine @replies 400000 Sum of original tweets 200000 0 2012-Aug-24 2012-Aug-25 2012-Aug-26 2012-Aug-27
  7. 7. 2012-Aug-27 10 2012-Aug-27 07 2012-Aug-27 04 2012-Aug-27 01 2012-Aug-26 22 2012-Aug-26 19 2012-Aug-26 16 2012-Aug-26 13 2012-Aug-26 10 2012-Aug-26 07 2012-Aug-26 04 2012-Aug-26 01 2012-Aug-25 22 2012-Aug-25 19 2012-Aug-25 16 2012-Aug-25 13 2012-Aug-25 10 2012-Aug-25 07 2012-Aug-25 04 2012-Aug-25 01 2012-Aug-24 22 2012-Aug-24 19 2012-Aug-24 16 2012-Aug-24 13 2012-Aug-24 10 LANCE AND NEIL • Coverage of Neil far exceeds Lance, major breaking news topic – but, top RTs about Neil come from mix of news accounts, politicians, celebrities, sportspeople, scientists 140000 … 120000 100000 80000 60000 40000 Sum of Lance tweets 20000 Sum of Neil tweets 0
  8. 8. SPIKE #2: UCI ANNOUNCEMENT • Resigns from Livestrong and loses Nike contract (17/10), UCI accepts USADA findings (22/10). 180000 160000 140000 120000 100000 80000 60000 40000 20000 25/10/2012 24/10/2012 23/10/2012 22/10/2012 21/10/2012 20/10/2012 19/10/2012 18/10/2012 17/10/2012 16/10/2012 0
  9. 9. SPIKE #2: UCI ANNOUNCEMENT • The UCI announcement sees a rush in repeat lines and jokes from August: – Both retweeting the August tweets (“RT @BBCSporf: Retweet this tweet, if you have won the Tour De France as many times as Lance Armstrong.”) and coming up with new versions of the same punchlines • e.g. stripped of Dodgeball cameo • Stripped of titles, keeps victory over cancer – (or, cancer wants a rematch) • Takes ball(s) to do things
  10. 10. SPIKE #3: OPRAH INTERVIEWS 250000 200000 150000 Sum of retweets Sum of genuine @replies 100000 Sum of original tweets 50000 0 2013-Jan-17 2013-Jan-18 2013-Jan-19 2013-Jan-20
  11. 11. SPIKE #3: OPRAH INTERVIEWS • RTs and original tweets again prominent (similar levels of tweets captured indicative of rate limiting?) – Pre-announced event, live broadcast invites more tweets • Tweeting along with the television, sharing thoughts as they happen • No single hashtag, though: – Tweets mention armstrong, lance – OWNTV, Oprah – Start new, snarky, rival hashtags
  12. 12. DISCUSSION • @mentions of @lancearmstrong • Not generally used in Oprah interview (space at a premium for live tweets?) • Some support messages, particularly at start of the scandal – Responses to Armstrong‟s own tweets, although his comments on scandal minimal/pointedly abstract
  13. 13. DISCUSSION http://www.mobli.com/media/show/id/22700756?referer=tw
  14. 14. DISCUSSION • @mentions of @lancearmstrong • But some criticism – from other riders, for instance (Mark Cavendish mentions @lancearmstrong in linking to his piece in response to the interview) • Limited use of @mentions of the subject of news? – By mainstream media, for instance – Although not universal, and other outlets do use @mentions • Also fits in with wider pattern of original tweets and RTs, not @replies, being dominant types?
  15. 15. DISCUSSION • Changing frames – The hunting by the snark • Especially by the time of live tweeting the interviews, the spread of support/critique is less even – Widespread mockery (and RTing of the mockery) • Mixing news stories – Important for topical humour? • Topicality of tweets – crossover – appropriation of breaking/unfolding news?
  16. 16. DISCUSSION • Framing – humour vs. news, support vs. outrage – Promotion of humorous/general interest aspects in addition to/as opposed to the details of the doping? • e.g. the wide sharing of the „books put in fiction section‟ story • The appropriation of hashtags (portmanteaux) and punchlines
  17. 17. Appropriating punchlines RT networks of similarly-phrased tweets during Oprah interview
  18. 18. DISCUSSION • Focal accounts for breaking news (based on RTs): – News accounts but also celebrities • New gatekeepers? News filters through personal interests (and the interests of these accounts) – News accounts retweeted for the breaking story, celebrities for the personal responses? • Extent of coverage – Major (live) news accompanied by unfocused commentary, with several competing hashtags (if even used) – Space concerns for live tweets in particular – time to edit vs. time to publish (hashtags and @mentions not essential as long as context known?)
  19. 19. CONCLUSION • • • • • • Twitter and breaking news Humour and subjectivity Topicality and immediacy Live tweeting, knowns and unknowns Celebrities and news sources Other types of appropriation – Hashtags • Custom hashtags • Spam – using trends to hook in
  20. 20. http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ http://socialmedia.qut.edu.au/ @snurb_dot_info @jeanburgess @_StephenH @DrTNitins @timhighfield @cdtavijit @lena_sauter @dpwoodford @tsadkowsky @socialmediaQUT

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