Tweeting journalists were preoccupied by the Leveson Inquiry from April to June 2012, according to research findings published by PR consultancy Portland, using data collected by the media platform Tweetminster.

While social media influence and content measures should always be treated with care because of the methodological difficulties, this summary report provides a useful indication of topics dominating the journalistic Twittersphere in the last quarter and year.

The “NewsTweet Index” monitored 288,687 tweets by journalists from national news media organisations, using Tweetminster’s own lists, complemented by Twitter lists managed by media organisations directly.

Some independent bloggers’ tweets are included, but only those with a mainstream connection (eg. Paul Staines has a column for the Daily Star Sunday, Harry Cole contributes to the Spectator, Paul Waugh of PoliticsHome is a lobby journalist).

According to Portland, “link analysis was used to study the content distributed by each media outlet by topic” although Times’ content could not be monitored because of the organisation’s paywall.

According to its Index, the top five most popular news stories across media from April to June 2012 were Leveson, David Cameron, Police, Murdoch and Jeremy Hunt (graphic here). “Inquiry” also appears in the top topics for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sky News, possibly in reference to Leveson. “Robert Jay QC” features at the bottom of the FT’s topic column.

Portland/Tweetminster also recorded the influence of individual journalists using a score “based on the number of mentions and retweets they received during the quarter, with extra weighting given to mentions by other influential media tweeters”, listing the top 50 [PDF]. The Financial Times’ Ben Fenton (@benfenton) who live tweeted the Leveson Inquiry came in at 24.

Female voice?

Incidentally, only eight of the 50 listed journalists are women (16%), which might prove useful data for J. Nathan Matias, who is currently researching gender representation in the news at the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media. A Guardian article Matias co-authored with Lisa Evans and Lynn Cherney showed that “women wrote less than a third of articles in the Daily Mail, Guardian, and Telegraph from July 2011 through June 2012“.

Judith Townend is a journalist and researcher based at the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, City University London. She is @jtownend on Twitter and blogs at Meeja Law.