Trump’s tweets and the news cycle

Kalev Leetaru of Real Clear Politics explores the link between the president’s social media pronouncements and the national news media’s priorities.

Donald Trump pioneered the modern “Twitter presidency,” in which everything from policy announcements to personal musings of the moment are published through his @realDonaldTrump account. How have the world’s media covered a president who favors spur-of-the-moment tweets over scripted press conferences?

Since April 20, 2016, the GDELT Project has tracked all of the tweets linked to by online news media worldwide in 65 languages. Over that time, GDELT has tracked 868,539 articles that linked to a Donald Trump tweet. Of the president’s roughly 44,200 tweets to date, 13,539 (31%) have appeared in the news, reinforcing just how much his Twitter account helps to drive global journalism. …

… From his election to his inauguration, Trump’s Twitter account became ever more central to coverage in the world’s news media as journalists looked for every insight into his policy priorities come January.

What’s interesting, however, is that once Trump took office, coverage of his tweets fell precipitously the first two months and did not recover fully again until June 2017. One possible explanation is that reporters relied more on press conferences, daily briefings by the White House spokesman, and other traditional press mechanisms of the presidency.

The regular interval of the vertical surges shows just how frequently Trump’s tweets cause a media firestorm. The regularity of these surges suggests they may serve directly or indirectly as a way for Trump to maintain his grasp on media coverage.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

Reader Comments