Article Feature: Mapping a Media Controversy (Trayvon Martin)

In case you missed First Monday‘s extensive analysis of the way the Trayvon Martin story moved through the media…The Battle for ‘Trayvon Martin’: Mapping a Media Controversy Online and Off-line, by Erhardt Graeff, Matt Stempeck, and Etan Zuckerman.

One of the biggest news stories of 2012, the killing of Trayvon Martin, nearly disappeared from public view, initially receiving only cursory local news coverage. But the story gained attention and controversy over Martin’s death dominated headlines, airwaves, and Twitter for months, thanks to a savvy publicist working on behalf of the victim’s parents and a series of campaigns off–line and online. Using the theories of networked gatekeeping and networked framing, we map out the vast media ecosystem using quantitative data about the content generated around the Trayvon Martin story in both off–line and online media, as well as measures of engagement with the story, to trace the interrelations among mainstream media, nonprofessional and social media, and their audiences. We consider the attention and link economies among the collected media sources in order to understand who was influential when, finding that broadcast media is still important as an amplifier and gatekeeper, but that it is susceptible to media activists working through participatory or nonprofessional media to co–create the news and influence the framing of major controversies. Our findings have implications for social change organizations that seek to harness advocacy campaigns to news stories, and for scholars studying media ecology and the networked public sphere.

First Monday is one of one of the first open access (since 1996), peer-reviewed journals devoted to the Internet. The Trayvon Martin piece appeared in the February issue and new March articles are upon us, such as Taking tweets to the streets: A spatial analysis of the Vinegar Protests in Brazil and Homelessness, wirelessness, and (in)visibility: Critical reflections on the Homeless Hotspots Project and the ensuing online discourseIf you’re not keeping up with First Monday, you’re not keeping up with the Internet. 


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