Me­dia Cov­er­age Anal­y­sis: Ce­cil theLion

Tourism Tattler - - CONSERVATION - © 2016 by the au­thors; li­censee MDPI, Basel, Switzer­land. This ar­ti­cle is an open ac­cess ar­ti­cle dis­trib­uted under the terms and con­di­tions of the Cre­ative Com­mons At­tri­bu­tion (CC-BY) li­cense.

The killing of a satel­lite-tagged male lion by a tro­phy hunter in Zim­babwe in July 2015 pro­voked an un­prece­dented me­dia re­ac­tion. In this pa­per, the au­thors pro­vide a chronol­ogy of events fol­low­ing the death of a lion nick­named “Ce­cil” and an­a­lyse the global me­dia cov­er­age of the event spa­tially and tem­po­rally.

By David W. Macdon­ald , Kim S. Ja­cob­sen, Dawn Burn­ham, Paul J. John­son and An­drew J. Loveridge.

The au­thors of this pa­per re­cruited a me­dia mon­i­tor­ing com­pany to ex­plore pat­terns in both so­cial and ed­i­to­rial me­dia glob­ally, re­gion­ally and by coun­try.

All peaked at the same time, so there was no ev­i­dence that any one plat­form was re­spon­si­ble for pre­cip­i­tat­ing the spread of the story in ad­vance of the oth­ers. The ed­i­to­rial and so­cial me­dia also peaked in syn­chrony, nei­ther one be­ing a fore­run­ner or fol­lower in the cov­er­age of the Ce­cil story.

In­stead, our re­sults re­veal a highly in­ter­con­nected me­dia uni­verse: with the story go­ing viral syn­chronously across me­dia chan­nels and ge­o­graph­i­cally across the globe over the span of about two days. We con­sider whether the pre­oc­cu­py­ing in­ter­est in Ce­cil dis­played by the mil­lions of peo­ple who fol­lowed the story may be­tray a per­sonal, and thus po­ten­tially po­lit­i­cal, value not just for Ce­cil, and not just for lions, but for wildlife, con­ser­va­tion and the en­vi­ron­ment. If so, then for those concerned with how wildlife is to live along­side hu­man en­ter­prise, this is a mo­ment not to be squan­dered and one which might have the po­ten­tial to her­ald a sig­nif­i­cant shift in so­ci­ety's in­ter­ac­tion with na­ture.

The num­ber of ar­ti­cles in the ed­i­to­rial me­dia men­tion­ing Ce­cil the lion peaked at 11,788 on 29 July. There was re­mark­able global syn­chrony in this “spike”, so the world me­dia ap­peared to re­spond as a glob­alised en­tity. We used me­dia sat­u­ra­tion, a rel­a­tive mea­sure of the num­ber of men­tions of the Ce­cil story, as a proxy for es­ti­mat­ing the level of in­ter­est in the Ce­cil story.

Re­gion­ally, sat­u­ra­tion lev­els were high in North Amer­ica. In­ter­est was also high in Aus­tralia and parts of South Amer­ica and Africa. This op­poses the com­mon as­sump­tion that in­ter­est in the Ce­cil story was the pre­rog­a­tive of wealthy na­tions.

The so­cial me­dia re­sponse to Ce­cil's death, was much larger than that in the ed­i­to­rial me­dia in terms of the num­ber of men­tions of Ce­cil (87,533 men­tions), but the time to the peak was very sim­i­lar to that of the ed­i­to­rial me­dia. We com­pared the devel­op­ment of cov­er­age of the event in the three largest so­cial me­dia plat­forms (Face­book, Twit­ter and YouTube) to see whether they played iden­ti­fi­ably dif­fer­ent roles in the devel­op­ment of the story through time.

Sto­ries about Ce­cil the Lion in the ed­i­to­rial me­dia in­creased from ap­prox­i­mately 15 per day to nearly 12,000 at its peak, and men­tions of Ce­cil the Lion in so­cial me­dia reached 87,533 at its peak.

We found that, while there were clear re­gional dif­fer­ences in the level of me­dia sat­u­ra­tion of the Ce­cil story, the pat­terns of the devel­op­ment of the cov­er­age of this story were re­mark­ably sim­i­lar across the globe, and that there was no ev­i­dence of a lag be­tween the so­cial me­dia and the ed­i­to­rial me­dia. Fur­ther, all the main so­cial me­dia plat­forms ap­peared to re­act in syn­chrony. This story ap­pears to have spread syn­chronously across me­dia chan­nels and ge­o­graph­i­cally across the globe over the span of about two days.

For lion con­ser­va­tion in par­tic­u­lar, and per­haps for wildlife con­ser­va­tion more gen­er­ally, we spec­u­late that the at­mos­phere may have been changed sig­nif­i­cantly.

Note: It is im­por­tant to read the com­ment in the Con­ser­va­tion Force Bul­letin June 2016 in con­junc­tion with the pa­per of Macdon­ald et. al.

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