St. Lawrence University
MacKenzie Juda

For my content analysis assignment, I wanted to get a closer look at the overall sentiment (apart from the smiley faces predetermined by Pulsar) toward the media within our data set. Because the criticism of the media - especially in terms of their portrayal of Michael Brown and the protests that ensued - played a major role in the online activism that was surrounding the events, I am interested in looking at how such criticism got its start, how it blossomed, and what the media did to defend themselves in a time which they were chastised by society.

In my analysis, I not only wanted to see what the tweeters in our data set were saying, but how they were saying it. Were they putting forth their own ideas or were they retweeting the ideas of someone else? I therefore made five tags: tweets regarding media criticism, tweets regarding media defense, tweets regarding media meta-discourse, retweets that demonstrate a trust in the media, and retweets that demonstrate a distrust in the media. If a retweet of a news story did not have any comment from the retweeter along with it, it was assumed that they supported the tweet and were therefore tagged as demonstrating trust in the media through their retweet. The tweets that I tagged fell between August 9th and August 14th in 2014, the night of the shooting of Michael Brown and the five days that followed.

The results of my content analysis were not what I had expected. More people were defending the media than anticipated, and not all of them were journalists. What I learned from this analysis was that within this time frame, the Ferguson Police Department enforced a "media blackout" in which reporters and journalists were either forced out of the town or not allowed in. While activists oftentimes did not like the way in which the events were presented to the rest of the world by the media, many at least wanted the world to see what was happening. However, there still were tweets that recommended that people trust the accounts of Ferguson from social media rather than mainstream media, and there were still tweets from journalists commandeering other journalists on their work, claiming it "unbiased" and "truthful."

The results from the content analysis show that in the case of the early days of the protests in Ferguson, the sample of journalists and activists in the data set found a greater enemy in the Ferguson police than in each other. Though tensions were already high among the mainstream media and activists at this time, the Ferguson police were acting to silence both sets of voices.