The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

What made news in Indian media over the last month?

Photo: Greg’s Indian Adventure

By Amol Ranjan

Media Cloud is a joint project by the MIT Center for Civic Media and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. It is an open source platform for studying media ecosystems. By tracking millions of stories published online, their tools allow researchers to track how stories and ideas spread through media.

One of its tool called ‘Explorer’ tracks the given topic’s attention, language, and entities covered by various digital media sources.

I searched five topics from the period 1 Jan 2019 to 27 Feb 2019. Five topics include:

  • Rafale deal
  • Unemployment
  • Farmers
  • Kashmir
  • Pakistan.

I chose Rafale deal because the opposition was regularly targeting the govt. on this topic in the recent times. Issues related to unemployment and farmers are also significant issues of today; while Kashmir and Pakistan have always been the major talking points in India since post-independence.

The search presented an attention graph of these topics which you can see below:


One can infer following outcomes from this search.

In the period

  • Rafale deal received the highest attention among the five topics till Pulwama attack happened on 14 Feb. Attention to Rafale deal has declined since the Pulwama attack, where it has received its lowest attention since the start of 2019.
  • Attention related to Kashmir and Pakistan surged almost equally together after the Pulwama attack on 14 Feb, leaving Rafale deal way behind. Attention to Pakistan started gaining lead over Kashmir after the Pulwama attack and after the air strike by Indian Air Forces on 26 Feb near the Line of Control (LOC) in Balakot; attention to Pakistan jumped significantly way beyond Kashmir.
  • Attention to farmers has not changed significantly in the period, except just before the Union interim budget which was presented in the parliament on 1 On 31 Jan, farmers received significant attention – highest among the five topics and way more than the Rafale deal. But after the budget presentation, its attention was back to its average.
  • Except a little spike in attention for unemployment issue before the budget, it received the lowest attention among these five topics throughout.
  • Since the Pulwama attack on 14 Feb, attention to unemployment has declined further but the attention to farmers has remained the same.
  • On average, farmers and unemployment have received significantly less attention compared to Rafale deal, Kashmir, and Pakistan.
  • In terms of top words used with these five search words, ‘waiver’ and ‘election’ were used more than the word ‘distress’ with the word ‘farmers’. ‘Terror’ and ‘terrorist’ were used more than ‘Pulwama’ and ‘Kashmir’, while ‘Pakistan’ and ‘NSSO’ were the second most used words with the word ‘unemployment’.
  • In terms of total number news stories coverage, there were at least 31, 520 stories where Rafale deal was mentioned at least once. Similarly, Pakistan was mentioned in 27,593 stories; Kashmir was mentioned in 19,705 stories; farmers was mentioned in 14, 316 stories; and unemployment was mentioned in 3,243 stories at least once.

Although things might change later, one can for a moment say that just few months before the Lok Sabha election, the media attention has seen a significant shift since Pulwama attack. The conversation has shifted from Rafale deal – an opposition-led topic – to a more jingoistic topic which might favor BJP’s election campaign. Recent remark by BJP leader BS Yadurappa where he said that the Indian Air Force’s air strike in Balakot would help the party gain seats in Lok Sabha elections and the Prime Minister choosing to address public rallies with the photos of Pulwama martyrs in the background (while not officially addressing the nation as the Prime Minister of India even once after the air strike) suggests how the events after the Pulwama attack are going to be used by the ruling party.

The data is taken from a pool of 133 online English language media sources cited by Media Cloud platform. Sources include major brand names like The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Business Standard, Indian Express, The Hindu, NDTV, etc.

Amol Ranjan completed M.A. in Media and Cultural Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in 2012.


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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Revisiting the Partition of India”, edited by Kamayani Kumar, University of Delhi, India.

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