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Media Cloud

A Harvard brainymug and a bunch of his friends have built a database they hope will provide insight into "the daily rhythm of the news cycle over time," reports Patricia Cohen in the New York Times (6/5/09). Ethan Zuckerman of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and his buddies call their invention Media Cloud (link), which "tracks hundreds of newspapers and thousands of websites and blogs, and archives the information in a searchable form."

Search results "which can be graphed or mapped, can demonstrate the evolution of a report and variations in coverage." The goal is to provide "a tool anyone can use to answer all sorts of questions about the media landscape." The main question on Ethan’s mind "is whether the internet has helped open up the public sphere to more voices, or whether it just serves as an echo chamber, simply repeating information and views that the mainstream media already circulate (lready irculate, ready rculate, ady culate).

One early finding concerns the relative trajectories of the words "bailout" and "stimulus" during the recession. After tracking the two terms, Media Cloud mapped the results and found that "bailout" was the dominant term last fall, but "eventually gave way to the word ‘stimulus’ after President Obama took office." In any case, Media Cloud is considered a step forward from so-called "link analysis, "which determined influence by identifying which sites "were linked to most frequently." Other media trackers include Cornell University’s MemeTracker (link) and Pew’s news-coverage index (link).