–submitted by Ellie Schatz; photo by Stacy Nemeth
Based on 19 years of team projects that have collected and analyzed data on mass communication, Dr. Dhavan Shah’s formal title for his presentation was: Understanding Election Dynamics Via Social Media. It took a few minutes and a little data for him to share the message that Mr. Trump knew how to use the press and social media to draw attention to himself, and that he honed his communication skills in the course of the presidential campaigns. Our impression may be that social media reacts to the news, but Trump’s tweeting demonstrates that social media actually produces the news. The template is: so and so tweets, others respond/retweet, this draws attention and creates publicity, and ultimately the press writes about it.
Dr. Shah’s data show that Trump got $2.8 billion in free primary coverage compared to $1.1 billion for Clinton and much less for any of the other Republican candidates. Trump dominated the news coverage for 23 out of 24 weeks, and only Sanders, of all other candidates, got less negative coverage. Although staged media events and unscheduled media events show up as ways of reaching the public, social media dominates, i.e., when Trump sends out a tweet, it gets repeated in social media blasts and the message is amplified through a high volume of retweeting. Trump’s use of social media makes him master of a new medium, comparable to FDR’s use of radio, Kennedy’s use of television, and Obama’s mastery of digital targeting.
Dr. Shah calls this new way of expression the period of Hybrid Media Campaigning. This means that Mr. Trump gave the media what they wanted by attending staged media events and showing up at unscheduled events, both directly covered by the press. But, he relied primarily on using an emerging form of communication: tweeting. This can be seen as having a two-way influence on the news rather than being top down — when a person’s followers retweet and retweet, that shapes the news. The bottom line? The press is complicit in Trump’s success.
If you missed our meeting this week, CLICK to watch the video. We thank WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week.