This post is in response to the Clinton email coverage in Newsweek earlier today.
If you’ve been following the presidential election at all, you’ve probably heard (again and again) about Hillary Clinton’s emails. What happened to them? Was her conduct illegal? What can it tell us about how she’d act as president?
But Clinton’s email issue isn’t the first time a high-ranking politician has gotten in hot water for missing emails. George W. Bush got his own share of bad press for “losing” emails between 2003 and 2009.
Although these issues aren’t exactly parallel, it is still interesting to compare the situations themselves, as well as the response to them.
A recent article from Newsweek (citing data from Crimson Hexagon) aims to do exactly that.
“The media paid some attention to the Bush email chicanery but spent considerably less ink and airtime than has been devoted to Clinton’s digital communications in the past 18 months. According to the Boston social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, which ran a study for Newsweek, there have been 560,397 articles mentioning Clinton’s emails between March 2015 and September 1, 2016.”
The Newsweek article did a good job of laying out the differences in the media coverage of these two issues, but we wanted to highlight some other aspects of the data to provide even more context for the story. Because this issue has captured national attention for so long, we figured we would share them here. How did the Clinton email saga unfold in the media? What was the true timeline of events that sparked the public’s interest and continual coverage in press?
First, a bit about our methodology. To see how the media coverage unfolded over the last 18 months, we used the Crimson Hexagon data library, specifically diving into major news outlets as a content source, defined as: Fact-based articles by formal news organizations, such as CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and more. We then applied a keyword filter of Hillary and Clinton related keywords combined with email-specific language to refine the results over the last year and a half.
Here’s what we found:
The Story Breaks
Looking at the aforementioned sources, we see that the story first hit in March, 2015, when The New York Times first exposed the news. This was hands down the largest volume of coverage throughout the last 18 months.
Clinton Releases the Server
The second wave of coverage picks up when Clinton releases the email server to the Justice Department, and then offers an apology for using a personal email account. The highest point of news-sharing from this time period (August-October 2015) occurred in October when Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s main political opponent at the time, said he was “sick of hearing about Clinton’s emails”. Little did he know how much more coverage was on its way.
The State Department Release
The next media wave hit in January 2016, when the State Department released intel that there were 22 documents marked as Top Secret within 28,000 emails. After that, there were two more email releases that earned even more attention from the news corps.
Over a year later, the FBI Director and Attorney General stated that they would not press charges related to the controversy. This announcement caused the largest spike in the sharing of news coverage since the news came to light in early 2015.
News coverage of Clinton’s emails is still extremely high, and a topic of much discussion in Clinton’s bid for the presidency against Donald Trump. We believe this is likely caused by the proximity of election day. We’ll continue to monitor the coverage over social as well as news sources to understand more about the presidential candidates in the coming weeks.