A of retweets by researchers from the University of Michigan has indicated that politicians from various parties show preferences for certain publications. On social media, individual journalists tend to be engaged more by the opposition as compared to media houses, which somewhat tend to be divided between the governing BJP and the opposition parties, according to the research.
“Three media groups fall solidly on the BJP side in terms of engagements by politicians – the Zee Group, the Republic group and the Jagran Group. On the opposition side, NDTV’s Hindi and English offerings both tend to be engaged mainly by the opposition (@ndtvindia by Samajwadi Party and @ndtv by INC), while the India Today group also generally falls on the opposition side,” states the study, titled “Indian journalists on Twitter and their politician footprint”. It explores how “positions of journalists on issues can be understood vis-a-vis institutions they report on”.
The Times Group’s outlets have been placed at several different points along the spectrum of “polarisation”, according to the study.
From August 1, 2021 to September 14, 2022, authors of the study accessed a database of nearly 40,000 politicians and journalists in India, examining “every retweet (excluding quoted tweets) contained within the last 1,000 messages (or less, if the politician tweeted less frequently) from politicians’ accounts”. The purpose was to “map out partisanship”.
It suggests that the AAP engages the most with journalistic content in terms of number of journalists and the number of media handles retweeted per politician. It says journalists who have joined the party are behind its “media firepower”.
The report also suggests certain keywords led to more engagement. Words such as “minister, shri, birthday, spokesperson, senior, press and conference” in a tweet struck a chord with politicians while themes such as “breaking news, policy matters, elections and schemes” remained popular.
Opposition leaders tend to engage more with beat reporters, political editors and independent journalists while the BJP has built a stronger network with “star influencers” and “high-followed anchor accounts”. “@RajatSharmaLive, @RubikaLiyaquat, @DChaurasia2312 and @SushantBSinha each were retweeted over 150 times by BJP leaders in the study period alone. In contrast, only two journalists with a mega-following of 1 million plus – @ppbajpai and @ajitanjum – get more than 100 engagements from one or another major opposition party.”
In an ostensible insight into BJP’s media strategy, the study suggests that the BJP engages heavily with public commentators who may not have a journalistic background.
Journalists such as Rajdeep Sardesai, Rana Ayyub, Abhisar Sharma and Suhasini Haidar were not even retweeted once by politicians from the BJP during the study, which notes that LP Pant, the editor of Dainik Bhaskar, was the most retweeted by parties from across the spectrum.
“From the set of highly engaged journalists, the least polarized was Shiv Aroor, and even he scored almost 75 percent on the BJP side. Outside of these journalists with high politician engagement, only three highly-followed journalists had a relatively even spread of politicians across parties retweeting them among the high-followed journalists, they were @rahulkanwal, @shekhargupta, and @chitraaum.”
The study notes that global media outlets are increasingly engaged by opposition leaders except for CNN-News18, which “tends to lean heavily towards the BJP, whereas its content partner @CNN, in general, tends to lean liberal in the US”.
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