Pew Research & Crimson Hexagon: How the Media Have Covered bin Laden's Death So Far

A Pew special report with analysis powered by Crimson Hexagon

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) has just published a special report on media coverage of bin Laden’s death. The Pew team responsible for producing the report used the Crimson Hexagon ForSight platform to rapidly examine and analyze more than 120,000 news stories, 100,000 blog posts, and 6.9 million posts on Twitter or Facebook from May 1 through May 4.
Here is a summary of the findings of the Pew report:

  • Attention given to the event in both traditional and new media has been only nominally focused on the political ramifications of the terrorist’s death. So far the coverage has defied the tendency seen in many major national news events to turn quickly partisan.
  • In the political discussion that did occur, bloggers were evenly divided over whether President Obama deserved more credit or whether the policies of President Bush did. On Facebook and Twitter, conversation crediting Obama is twice that praising Bush.
  • Discussion across mainstream media, on Facebook, Twitter and in the blogosphere, has centered on trying to sort out what happened and on people’s feelings about it-including significant debate in social media over whether the reports might be a hoax.
  • In the mainstream press, coverage has focused on trying to parse out the details leading up to and during the dramatic raid, and on sorting through the national and international reaction to it. Those two themes together accounted for half the bin Laden coverage since Sunday night, May 1, and through Wednesday, May 4.


Given that we have come to expect rapid shifts in how news stories unfold in the age of social media, what may be most striking is how little the coverage and discussion on this topic have evolved since the event occurred. Humor, which was a strong initial response, has dropped off some in social media, but it still remains one of the most prevalent themes on Facebook and Twitter. Otherwise, the discussion over the first few days has remained fundamentally unchanged, deepening rather than quickly moving on to new dimensions of story in the way that is typically seen, sometimes before the facts are fully reported. The calculus over who will benefit politically, for instance, has not shifted substantially. Similarly, the suspicions that bin Laden’s death was a hoax have not changed appreciably.
You can read the full Pew Research report here.

As always, weíll continue analyzing the social sphere for interesting trends on a range of topics. In the meantime, feel free contact us at info@crimsonhexagon.com with questions or to learn how your market, brand or product could benefit from leveraging the Crimson Hexagon for social media monitoring and analysis.† Want to see the Crimson Hexagon platform in action? Request a Live Online Demo.

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