ArticlePDF Available

Linking event archives to news: a computational method for analyzing the gatekeeping process


Abstract and Figures

Digital archives that document real-world events provide new opportunities for large-scale analyses of how news coverage represents reality. We present a method and open-source tool for linking event data to news articles, and demonstrate its application with an analysis of event and country level predictors of terrorism coverage in The Guardian from 2006 to 2018, using event data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). Our method builds on established techniques for calculating document similarity, and we propose a novel strategy for fine-tuning parameters of the event matching algorithm that requires no manual coding. An online appendix is provided that documents all code to replicate our analysis and reuse our tools.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
Communication Methods and Measures
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage:
Linking event archives to news: a computational
method for analyzing the gatekeeping process
Kasper Welbers, Wouter Van Atteveldt, Joe Bajjalieh, Dan Shalmon,
Pradnyesh Vineet Joshi, Scott Althaus, Chung-Hong Chan, Hartmut Wessler
& Marc Jungblut
To cite this article: Kasper Welbers, Wouter Van Atteveldt, Joe Bajjalieh, Dan Shalmon,
Pradnyesh Vineet Joshi, Scott Althaus, Chung-Hong Chan, Hartmut Wessler & Marc Jungblut
(2021): Linking event archives to news: a computational method for analyzing the gatekeeping
process, Communication Methods and Measures, DOI: 10.1080/19312458.2021.1953455
To link to this article:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published with
license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Published online: 22 Aug 2021.
Submit your article to this journal
View related articles
View Crossmark data
Linking event archives to news: a computational method for
analyzing the gatekeeping process
Kasper Welbers
, Wouter Van Atteveldt
, Joe Bajjalieh
, Dan Shalmon
Pradnyesh Vineet Joshi
, Scott Althaus
, Chung-Hong Chan
, Hartmut Wessler
and Marc Jungblut
Department of Communication Science, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands;
Cline Center for
Advanced Social Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA;
Institute for Media and
Communication Studies, University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany;
Department of Media and Communication,
Ludwig Maximilian University of München, Munich, Germany
Digital archives that document real-world events provide new opportunities
for large-scale analyses of how news coverage represents reality. We present
a method and open-source tool for linking event data to news articles, and
demonstrate its application with an analysis of event and country level
predictors of terrorism coverage in The Guardian from 2006 to 2018, using
event data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). Our method builds on
established techniques for calculating document similarity, and we propose
a novel strategy for ne-tuning parameters of the event matching algorithm
that requires no manual coding. An online appendix is provided that docu-
ments all code to replicate our analysis and reuse our tools.
Of all real-world events, the news only covers those that are believed to be the most important and
interesting for the audience (Galtung & Ruge, 1965; Harcup & O’neill, 2017; Shoemaker & Vos, 2009).
This selection process serves a critical social purpose, because it reduces a vast and complex reality into
a small number of bite-sized stories that people are capable and willing to consume. However, the
distorted picture of reality in the news can also distort citizens' worldviews, with potentially harmful
consequences (Gadarian, 2010; Iyengar, 1990; Lewis, 2012). In this paper, we propose and validate
a computational method and tool that enables a large-scale analysis of this distortion at the level of
specific news events.
In order to accurately understand the factors that cause certain events to be covered and others to
be ignored, we need to relate news coverage to information regarding the real-world occurrence of
events (Rosengren, 1970). Today, there are various data sources that document individual events on
topics such as disasters, crime and terrorism. These databases typically report various features that
would be reported in news coverage, most importantly the type of event, location, and the people and
organizations that are involved. Using computational text analysis, we can use these textual descrip-
tions and the time of the event to link individual events to individual news articles. We propose
a method and tool for performing this task, which we demonstrate by linking 112,091 events from the
Global Terrorism Database (GTD) to 446,612 articles from The Guardian between 2006 and 2018. We
then show how these linked event-article data can be used to analyze news selection in a way that
aligns closely with the conceptual model underlying gatekeeping theory, building on Soroka’s (2012)
conceptualization of gatekeeping as a function.
CONTACT Kasper Welbers VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
© 2021 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Our method builds on established techniques for measuring the similarity of texts, but is specialized
for the application of matching event data to news content. We also propose a novel technique for
estimating parameters for the matching algorithm. Specifically, we demonstrate that this can be used
to determine a good threshold for how similar an event and news article need to be in order to
consider them a match. Normally, determining this threshold requires hard to obtain gold standard
data (see, e.g., Burggraaff & Trilling, 2020; Linder et al., 2018; Welbers et al., 2018), but our fully
automated technique shows promising results as an alternative or complementary approach. To
validate our method and analysis, we manually coded a gold standard of 500 news articles for
references to GTD events, and performed an additional manual validation of the precision of 100
matches. Our tools are published in an R package,
and an online appendix is provided that contains
code for replicating our analyses.
Analyzing the Gatekeeping Function with Event Data
Even the thickest newspaper can contain only a very limited perspective on a very specific selection of
real-world events. The process through which reality is transformed into this set of messages has been
conceptualized as gatekeeping (Lewin, 1947; Shoemaker et al., 2001). In its simplest form, this process
involves a single gatekeeper that, given a certain information input, produces a certain output. In the
seminal gatekeeping study by David Manning White (1950), the gatekeeping choices of a single editor
are studied by analyzing which of the news stories are selected to be “in” or “out.” However, this is still
only a single gate. The full gatekeeping process involves many interdependent gatekeepers, whose
selection choices are affected by a diversity of values, routines, and organizational and institutional
constraints (Shoemaker & Vos, 2009).
Empirically analyzing every gate and how the gatekeepers act in concert is practically infeasible.
Yet, we can study the outcome of this complicated process by comparing the picture of reality in the
media to real-world data (Rosengren, 1970). This type of analysis cannot directly tell us why specific
events are reported, but it can tell us what types of events are more likely to become news. In other
words, we can see which events are “in” or “out,” but we don’t know the selection criteria of each
individual gatekeeper involved in this selection. One of the first explorations of how certain types of
“world events” are more likely to pass through a chain of gatekeepers and become part of the “media
image” was the paper by Galtung and Ruge (1965) on the structure of foreign news coverage. As
scholars pursued this line of inquiry, they identified various elements that determine the newsworthi-
ness of events, often referred to as news values (Harcup & O’neill, 2017; Schultz, 2007).
A novel conceptual framework for comparing news content to real-world data was proposed by
Soroka (2012). Soroka conceptualized gatekeeping as a function, that takes an information distribution
in reality as input, and outputs the information distribution of news reports. As an example, Soroka
compares the distribution of real-world monthly unemployment rate to the distribution of monthly
sentiment (i.e., a scale of negative to positive) scores in news about employment. By obtaining data
about these two distributions, we can understand the gatekeeping process by estimating the function
that transforms the former into the latter. Soroka coined this as a “distributional perspective” (p. 516)
to gatekeeping.
The greatest strength of this distributional perspective is that it makes a clear and elegant connec-
tion between gatekeeping theory and analysis. It sticks close to the definition and metaphor of the
gatekeeper, but “provides a model that can in principle be applied to real data, in a roughly comparable
way across media outlets and countries and policy domains” (Soroka, 2012, p. 518). The idea of
conceptualizing the gatekeeping process as a function that transforms input into output is not new, but
by measuring reality and news coverage as distributions it becomes possible to actually calculate the
gatekeeping function. Hypotheses regarding the gatekeeping process can then be expressed unam-
biguously in terms of the parameters of this function.
In this paper, we propose an extension of this approach that identifies the gatekeeping function
based on an event perspective. Instead of distributions as input and output, the input is a set of real-
world events, and the output is a subset of these events reported in the news. This perspective aligns
closely with the classic definition and metaphor of gatekeeping as a process that determines what
information passes through a gate (Shoemaker & Vos, 2009; White, 1950). Our contribution lies in
showing how we can obtain the data about the input and output events that are required to
approximate this gatekeeping function.
Linking Event Databases to News Articles
Our method leverages the fact that today various types of events are documented in large digital
archives. There are multiple databases for different types of events, and these are often maintained
with active assistance of scholars and organizations that go through great lengths to standardize
compilation and validation. These databases are generally not designed with news research in mind,
but many do strive to provide a complete overview of all events of a particular type with consistent and
well-documented criteria for inclusion.
For example, the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT) reports over 21.000 international
disasters since 1900, and is actively maintained and documented by the Center for Research on the
Epidemiology of Disasters (Guha-Sapir et al., 2014). For terrorism research, many studies rely on the
RAND database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents, the International Terrorism: Attributes of
Terrorist Events (ITERATE) and the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). The GTD, which is used
for the example analysis in this paper, currently documents over 200.000 terrorist events since 1970
(LaFree, 2019). Furthermore, communicative actions such as social media messages, speeches and
press releases can also be considered events, and many of these can now be obtained from online
platforms. Although these databases will only ever provide an approximate account of all events of
a particular type, it is often our best approximation of the real-world set of events. This can be of
tremendous value for gatekeeping research, where the lack of knowledge about the real-world set of
events has long been a blind spot.
The main challenge is to link these event data to news articles. Depending on the number of unique
events and news articles, the number of potential matches can be huge, and only a very small
percentage of these will be an actual match.
Performing this task manually is extremely time-
consuming while requiring high cognitive load, which makes it prone to human error. For these
types of coding tasks, computational methods can often achieve or at least approach human level
accuracy (King & Lowe, 2003).
Several studies have indeed used computational techniques to (partially) automate this coding task.
Gruenewald et al. (2009) linked homicide events from the Newark Police Department investigation
files to news articles by using information, such as names of victims and offenders, as keywords that
were entered into a searchable database. This can certainly be a viable strategy, but it can only be used
under certain conditions. The event information should be cleanly organized, or the number of events
should be small enough for humans to extract the keywords. Moreover, it relies on the news database
not only for what articles it contains but also for its search functionalities. Sui et al. (2017) conducted
an analysis of news coverage in the United States about global terrorist incidents, for which they linked
the GTD to news articles. To perform this analysis, the authors wrote an algorithm to link a GTD event
to a news article if (1) the article was published within 7 days after the event, and (2) the city and attack
type documented in the GTD event description were mentioned in the article. While this strategy
might give results that can be used for certain types of analysis, it only makes little use of the textual
information from the event description and news text. Although city and attack type are important
information for distinguishing events, the specific words used in the GTD will often not match the
words used in the news article.
The fields of computer science and computational linguistics provide refined techniques for
matching event descriptions to news articles based on (latent) textual similarities (Mozer et al.,
2020). Although these fields seem to have focused little on the specific task of analyzing event selection
bias (Hamborg et al., 2019) the task of linking events to news is strongly related to techniques for
information retrieval and document clustering. In the field of communication science, scholars have
also started adopting these techniques for linking news articles based on similarities in what events are
covered (Trilling & Van Hoof, 2020; Welbers et al., 2018). The current study builds on and contributes
to these approaches, but with a specialized application for the task of matching event databases to
news. We also propose a novel method for using strong assumptions that can be made about the
temporal order and distance of events and news coverage.
It should be noted that, for certain event databases and news sources, readily available linkage data
can also be obtained from news databases, such as the Global Database of Events, Language and Tone
(GDELT). GDELT documents events with aggregated data from news articles, and since the 2.0 update
in 2015 also records individual mentions of events across news articles. The database is built by experts
and uses powerful resources (Leetaru & Schrodt, 2013), so if it provides the data that a researcher
needs, the accuracy could be higher than one might achieve by performing the linking oneself. The
main limitations of using this type of off-the-shelf data are that it limits control over the data, and the
algorithms used are often black boxes (Van Atteveldt & Peng, 2018). As we discuss in our analysis, one
of the benefits of the approach used in this paper is that it allows the researcher to adjust parameters
that affect precision and recall, to test for robustness and to choose which is more important for a given
use case. Still, using GDELT is a viable option if the data are available, and researcher can validate the
linkage data to determine whether they are appropriate for their study. For an excellent application of
using GDELT for using events in news analysis, we refer to Hopp et al. (2020). The authors of this
study also published an article that presents an interface for working with GDELT for communication
research, and that discusses the promises and pitfalls of using GDELT (Hopp et al., 2019).
The analysis presented in this paper demonstrates how linking an event archive to news articles can
be used to analyze the journalistic gatekeeping process We show that the gatekeeping function can be
approximated with a (multilevel) logistic regression model. Hypotheses regarding the event charac-
teristics that increase the probability of the event being covered in the news can then be formulated
unambiguously in terms of odds ratios. Thus, we can perform a fine-grained event-level analysis of the
gatekeeping process using an established statistical model while maintaining the elegant connection
between theory and empirical analysis in Soroka’s (2012) gatekeeping function approach.
Predictors of Terrorism Coverage
Our analysis of terrorism coverage serves as a demonstration of how our method can be applied to test
relevant hypotheses pertaining to news selection. To contextualize this example, we provide a brief
introduction of research on news selection of terrorist events.
The investigation of news values in the context of terrorism coverage reveals a complicated
symbiotic relation between journalism and terrorism (Farnen, 1990; Weimann & Winn, 1994).
Terrorists have a communicative goal (Hoffman, 2017), and to achieve this goal they parasitically
exploit journalistic selection by constructing a package so spectacular and violent that journalists can
hardly ignore it (Bell, 1978). For journalists, this results in an unfortunate intersection of news
selection criteria and terrorist motives. Their role as gatekeepers compels them to cover these attacks
on society but doing so may cause them to inadvertently amplify terrorists’ messaging. Abubakar
(2020) interviewed journalists to investigate this dilemma, and concluded that while journalist’s ethics
do play a role, newsworthiness is indeed “the driving force in news media’s extensive coverage of
violent extremism” (p. 293).
Given the methodological goal of this paper, we narrow our substantive focus to a selection of
important news values for terrorism coverage. Firstly, we will focus on news values that intersect with
the communication strategy of terrorists, which Bell (1978) describes as constructing spectacular and
violent packages that media would find hard to ignore. We focus on two event characteristics
documented in the GTD that reflect these values: the number of fatal victims (bad news, magnitude),
and whether or not it was a suicide attack (drama). A positive effect of the number of fatal victims on
the likelihood of coverage has been found in U.S. coverage of international terrorism (Sui et al., 2017)
and terrorist attack on U.S. soil (Kearns et al., 2019). Interestingly, Zhang et al. (2013) also observed
a positive effect of the number of victims in U.S. newspapers on the prominence of terrorism coverage,
but found no such effect in Chinese newspapers. In contrast, the effect of a suicide attack on likelihood
of coverage is not strongly corroborated. In the study by Sui et al. (2017) the effect of suicide attacks
was also hypothesized but not supported (though some indication of an effect was found in the
robustness check).
H1a: Terrorist attacks with more fatal victims are more likely to be covered.
H1b: Terrorist attacks where a perpetrator committed suicide are more likely to be covered.
Secondly, we will investigate how the country in which the event occurred affects coverage.
Research into international news flows has shown that, controlled by event level characteristics, the
location of an event often greatly affects the likelihood that it is covered (Van Belle, 2000; Wu, 2000).
As a general rule of thumb, distance has a negative relation with coverage. For terrorist attacks, Sui
et al. (2017) found support that geographical distance between the U.S. and other countries indeed has
a negative effect on coverage. However, distance does not have to be geographical, but can also be
cultural (Chang et al., 1987; Galtung & Ruge, 1965; Sheafer et al., 2014). For people in the United
Kingdom – The Guardian’s home market – we expect that attacks in countries that are more culturally
distant are less likely to be covered. Prior support for this hypothesis was also found in the U.S. by Sui
et al. (2017), and reflected in the finding of Elmasry and El Nawawy (2020) that American papers
covered terrorist attacks in non-Muslim countries much more prominently compared to attacks in
Muslim countries.
H2a: Terrorist attacks in countries that are more geographically distant from the United Kingdom are
less likely to be covered.
H2b: Terrorist attacks in countries that are more culturally distant from the United Kingdom are less
likely to be covered.
We build on recent work in the field of communication that uses document similarity calculations to
study news flows (Boumans et al., 2018; Mozer et al., 2020; Nicholls, 2019; Trilling & Van Hoof, 2020;
Welbers et al., 2018). Events and news articles are transformed to sparse weighted vectors, and whether
an event is likely to be covered in a news articles is then measured based on the similarity of these
vectors and the time between the event and the news article publication. In this section, we first
describe the data and methods for calculating document similarity. Then we address the problem of
determining a suitable similarity threshold, for which we propose a novel approach. Finally, we use
a manually coded gold standard to validate our measurements for the example analysis, and to
evaluate our method for estimating the similarity threshold.
For our analysis, we use all GTD events (N = 112,091) and all coverage of violent events in The
Guardian (N = 446,612) over a period of 13 years, from 2006 to 2018. We chose the time period from
2006 to 2018 because before 2006 the number of newspaper articles available via the API from The
Guardian was very inconsistent, and the GTD data were at the time of data collection available until
December 2018.
The GTD is one of the largest databases of terrorist events that has commonly been used for
research (LaFree, 2019). Each event is documented according to a range of standardized fields,
including location, type of attack, weapons used, targets, victims, terrorist group and a summary.
Our method is designed to enable the use of all relevant textual features of the event description as
information for matching news articles. We therefore combined all textual features from the GTD data
with information about the event (e.g., summary, attack type, city) into a single textual
For non-textual features, such as the number of victims, textual descriptions can be
added for additional information. In our case, the GTD includes the number of killed and wounded
victims, so we included common words to describe this (e.g., killed, injured, casualties) if these
numbers are non-zero. Examples of GTD events can immediately be viewed on the GTD website.
The whole GTD database is available on request.
The Guardian is a highly influential elite news outlet, with many readers both within the UK and
across the globe. An important advantage of focusing on The Guardian for the methodological
contribution of this paper is that all data can be searched and obtained for free via the Open
Platform API.
Our online appendix provides scripts for downloading the data used in our analysis,
which we will maintain as long as these conditions do not change. We used a broad query
to collect all
articles that potentially cover a terrorist attack. We used all newspaper articles provided by the API,
which includes the UK and International sections of the website and the Sunday newspaper The
Observer. For all articles, we only used the first 200 words. News articles typically have an inversed-
pyramid structure, where the who, what, when, where and why questions are presented first (Christian
et al., 2014; Hamborg et al., 2018). Focusing on the first 200 words is a simple but effective way to focus
the textual similarity measurement on the most relevant content.
Calculating Document Similarity
Calculating the document similarities covers two general steps. First, the documents are preprocessed
to transform them into vector representations. Second, the similarity of documents is measured by
calculating the similarity between document vectors. There are various choices to make in each of
these steps, and which choices work best for what tasks are still an active area of research (Mozer et al.,
2020). Here we describe some key considerations for calculating document similarities for the purpose
of linking events to news articles.
From Text to Vector
A broad distinction can be made between two common types of vector representations of documents.
One is the bag-of-words (BOW), in which the vector elements are words or short sequences of words
(Boumans et al., 2018; Nicholls, 2019; Welbers et al., 2018). This works well for finding document
matches on specific content elements, because information about specific words (e.g., people, organi-
zation, locations) is maintained. An implication is that words in two texts need to be identical in order
to contribute to the similarity score. For preprocessing, it is therefore recommended to apply low-
ercasing and stemming (or lemmatization) to remove insignificant differences between words due to
capitalization, singular-plural and verb conjugations (e.g., President versus president, attack versus
The alternative is to use lower-dimensional vectors that represent more latent topical information
about documents, that can for instance, be obtained via topic modeling, word embeddings or factor
analysis (Blei et al., 2003; Mikolov et al., 2013). The strength of this approach is that it can find
semantic similarities even if the specific words are different. For instance, that “London bombings” is
similar to “Paris shootings.” Conversely, by focusing more on topical similarity between documents,
the discriminative value of specific keywords is diminished. For matching event data, we do not
actually want “London” to be considered similar to “Paris.”
As a general guideline, a lower-dimensional representation works well for matching documents on
topical content, but for more specific matches where specific keywords matter, a BOW approach can
be more appropriate (Mozer et al., 2020; Trilling & Van Hoof, 2020). For matching many events to
many news articles, keywords pertaining to who, what and where are particularly important, so we
used a BOW approach. For our example analysis, we used standard preprocessing techniques for
English language data (lowercasing and stemming). Although more advanced techniques, such as
lemmatization might give better results, for English language data the difference would be minor, and
the simple preprocessing techniques make our analysis easier to replicate.
The preprocessed texts are
then represented as a Document Term Matrix (DTM).
We also applied two additional preprocessing steps, for which we provide code in our online
appendix. Firstly, terms with similar spellings (e.g., Bogota, Bogotã) are merged together as single
columns in the DTM. To determine whether terms had similar spelling we used overlapping character
Fixing minor spelling differences is particularly important for the data in our example
analysis, because the proper nouns that are key for identifying terrorist events often have different
spelling variants. Also, the GTD contains fairly many spelling mistakes. It does sometimes occur that
words with similar spelling but different meanings are incidentally merged, but this is much less
harmful for accuracy than failing to merge slightly different words with the same meaning.
Secondly, we combine terms to add more informative features. Some terms, such as “London” and
“bomb,” are not very informative on their own in our data, but very informative combined. This step
basically adds more and more specific content elements to our document vectors. It is comparable to
adding bi-grams (i.e., sequences of two terms) to a DTM to add more information, but without the
strict condition of term order. It matters for the calculation of document similarity because measures
based on the dot product only sum the products of individual terms and do not consider their
interactions. Applying this technique does come with two caveats. Firstly, it requires some criteria
for deciding which combinations are included in the vector, because including all combinations (a
quadratic increase of vector length) would impose memory issues. In short, we only keep combina-
tions that occur at least once in the GTD data, that occur in less than 1% of all articles, and of which the
observed frequency is less than 1.2 times the expected frequency. The function to compute these
combinations, and more information on this technique, is provided in the online appendix. Secondly,
this step greatly increases the vector magnitude, which needs to be taken into account in deciding the
measure for vector similarity, as discussed in the next section.
A final step for preparing the document vectors is to weight the terms. We use the tf-idf weighting
scheme (Sparck Jones, 1972), that weights down terms (and term combinations) that occur in many
documents by multiplying the term frequency (tf) by the inverse document frequency (idf). We only
look at whether or not a query occurs in a news article (i.e., tf is binary), so the term score is effectively
the idf. We calculate the idf scores based only on term frequencies in the news articles, because
including the GTD scores would weight down the importance of terms that occur in many terrorist
Examples of elements of our vector after merging terms with similar spelling (the OR operators)
and combining terms (the AND operator) are given in Table 1. Here we for instance, see that “fire
AND al-sattar” is a highly informative-term combination, and that some spelling variations of the
term “pro-government” have been merged together.
Table 1. DTM columns after lowercasing, stemming, merging words with
similar spelling and adding term combinations.
Weight Column
1 fire AND al-sattar
0.959 iraq AND (al-sukkariyah OR al-sukkariya)
0.724 iraq AND (archbishop OR archbish OR arch-bishop OR)
0.588 pro-govern OR pro-government OR pro-governemnt
Calculating the Similarity of Vectors
A common recommendation for calculating document similarity is to calculate the cosine similarity of
the document vectors (Trilling & Van Hoof, 2020). However, for matching short event descriptions to
news articles the regular dot product can be a good alternative, and is used in our example analysis.
Cosine similarity is equivalent to the dot product after normalizing the vector magnitudes. This can be
nice because it bounds the dot product between 0 and 1, which can intuitively be interpreted as the
proportion of similarity. However, for matching event data to news, we are actually not interested in
the proportion of similarity. We only want to know whether there is sufficient reference to the event in
the news article, regardless of the other information in the news article. For example, say we have the
event description “Bomb in London,” and there are two news articles: “Bomb in London under-
ground” and “The impact of 9–11 and the London Bombings.” The dot products of the event
description (after prepossessing) with the two news articles would be identical, but the cosine
similarity for the second news article would be lower because of the larger vector magnitude. To
determine whether a news article mentions an event, we use the dot product because we are interested
in the scores of terms they have in common, regardless of any additional terms. Note that this is
particularly important if preprocessing techniques are used that inflate the amount of information in
document vectors, such as adding bi-grams or tri-grams, or our technique for adding term combina-
tions. Our R package provides a specialized implementation of matrix multiplication for efficiently
computing the dot products (and other similarity measures) of all events and news articles within
a given time window with the option to only store results above a given similarity threshold, making
this analysis feasible even on current-generation personal computers.
Determining the Similarity Threshold
The document comparison procedure gives us similarity scores, so to obtain discrete matches of events
to news articles we need to use a threshold (Mozer et al., 2020). The higher the similarity score of an
event-article pair, the more likely it is that the article actually covers the event. Accordingly, a higher
threshold gives better precision (fewer false positives) but if the threshold is too high it harms the recall
(more false negatives). A common approach to determine a good threshold is to develop a gold
standard based on manual coding (see, e.g., Burggraaff & Trilling, 2020; Linder et al., 2018; Welbers
et al., 2018). The precision and recall can then be calculated for the discrete matches obtained with
different thresholds to see which threshold gives the best results. The drawback of this approach is that
it requires a difficult manual coding task to get even a small gold standard. For the specific task of
matching event data to news, we propose a novel approach that can be used to estimate a good
threshold if gold standard data are not or not sufficiently available. In the next section, we explain and
apply this approach, and then we use a manually coded gold standard to show that our estimation
gives a similar suggested threshold.
Let us first be very specific about how we measure the validity of discrete matches. We define
a match as a document pair, in our case, a GTD event paired with a news article, for which the
similarity score is above a certain threshold. A match is a true positive (TP) if the news article actually
covers to the GTD event, and a false positives (FP) if it does not. A false negative (FN) means that we
did not find a match between an event and a news article even though the news article actually does
cover the event. Given these numbers, we can calculate validity in terms of the precision (P) and recall
(R), and their harmonic mean (F1).
Estimating Precision and Recall
The gist of our technique is that we estimate the precision, recall and F1 score by making the
assumption that the false-positive rate (FPR) is constant over time. To show the intuition behind
this approach, Figure 1 presents three bar charts that show how many matches were found over time
with different similarity thresholds (2, 7 and 14), where the x-axis represents how many days a news
article was published after the event. For the analysis, we are only interested in the matches with
a positive time difference, for which the bars are colored black. After all, we can be certain that matches
with a negative time difference are false positives, because there cannot be news coverage of an event
that has not yet happened. Yet, this does give us an estimate of the rate of finding false positives.
Assuming this rate is constant, we can estimate how many of the matches with a positive time
difference are true positives.
This appears to be a fairly strong assumption. In case of a false positive, the article does not
cover the event, so whether the article was published before or after the event is irrelevant. But
the assumption does rely on the independence of events, and this can be violated in the case of
chains of terrorist attacks. In these cases, new events are more likely to be similar to news
articles covering the previous attacks. This can be seen in the small rises in Figure 1 just before
the zero-day difference point in the second and third histogram. More sophisticated variations of
this estimation might correct for this, but for the current application, the impact of violating the
assumption appears to be minor.
Roughly speaking, the average height of the white bars indicates the false-positive rate.
If the
algorithm works, the black bars should be higher, because these can contain true positives on top of the
false positives. This is especially the case for 1 or 2 days after the event, because this is when most news
coverage should occur. As we increase the threshold, the proportion of the black bars that is higher
than the false-positive rate increases, indicating higher precision. However, the absolute number by
which the black bars are higher decreases, indicating that we might now have more false negatives. By
more formally putting numbers to these estimates, we can calculate an F1 score that balances precision
and recall. Details on how to perform the calculation are provided in the online appendix
Figure 2 shows the estimated precision, recall, and the corresponding estimated F1 score, for
a range of similarity thresholds. The vertical line, which indicates where the estimated F1 score is
highest, shows that the suggested weight threshold is 6.54.
Validation 1
We first created a gold standard by manually coding which GTD events are referred to in 500 random
news articles. A single expert coder followed a standardized procedure. In the first stage, the news
article is scanned for whether it covers a violent attack (or multiple attacks) that occurred in the past 7
days. Any type of attack is used at this point, so the coder does not have to interpret whether the attack
should be defined as terrorism. For each attack, the coder used a script to filter the GTD data by date
and country for a list of potential matches. In the second stage, the coder reads the event information
for all of the potential matches to determine whether it is mentioned in the article. We found 113
event-article pairs, for 27 articles that matched one or more GTD events.
To verify that the judgment of the expert coder in the second stage is reproducible, we conducted an
inter-rater reliability (IRR) test with two additional coders. The IRR test set was sampled from the gold
−28 −21 −14 −8 −3 2 6
Number of matches
0 5000 15000
−28 −21 −14 −8 −3 2 6
Day difference
0 1000 2000 3000
−28 −21 −14 −8 −3 2 6
0 400 800 1200
Figure 1. Frequency of matches with news articles published before (white) and after (black) events for similarity thresholds 2, 7 and
standard so that approximately one out of four potential event-article pairs was coded as true in the
gold standard, and so that for all included articles all possible matches need to be coded (identical to
the original task). This yielded 26 articles with 142 possible matches that all three coders rated, on
which they achieved a Krippendorf’s alpha of 0.775. This is an acceptable reliability given that
references to events in news are often ambiguous.
Figure 3 reports the precision, recall and F1 scores for different weight thresholds, given separately
for the article and match level. The match level represents the accuracy of the specific event-article
pairs, as also discussed above. By article level, we refer to the precision and recall of identifying which
news articles cover at least one GTD event. We included this as additional proof of the validity of the
matching algorithm and to show how aggregating matches to the article (or event) level generally
improves accuracy.
The highest F1 score (65%) is obtained with a threshold of 5.96, at which point the precision is
54.5%, and the recall is 80.53%. For the article level, the highest F1 score is much better, mainly
because recall decays less steeply, allowing a higher threshold to be used to increase precision. This
makes sense, because aggregating event-article pairs to binary measures of whether an article covers at
Figure 2. The threshold that optimizes the estimated F1 (left, vertical line) and the matches for this threshold (6.54) over time (right).
Figure 3. Precision, recall and F1 scores for different threshold values based on gold standard.
least one terrorist attack makes it easier to obtain high-recall. The same should apply to measuring
whether or not an event is covered in at least one article, meaning that the match level validity is likely
to underestimate the validity of our data as used in the analysis. However, we cannot verify whether
this is truly the case with these validation data.
Validation 2
In addition to the gold standard, we also performed a manual precision measurement for 100 event-
article pairs that according to the algorithm are matched if we use a threshold of 6.54 (as used in our
analysis). Where the gold standard was carefully designed to enable a proper measurement of recall by
coding all possible event-article pairs for 500 articles, the rareness of an actual match resulted in only
113 matches for 27 articles. This additional validation provides a complementary measurement of the
precision score if a threshold of 6.54 is used, based on 100 unique articles and events. The validation set
is also included in the online appendix, and contains comments from the coder for all cases where the
reference to the GTD event was ambiguous, and urls for viewing The Guardian article and GTD item.
This makes the strengths and weaknesses of the algorithm more transparent.
The most important finding is that this validation indicates that the gold standard validation does
not overestimate the precision, and even slightly underestimates it. At a threshold of 6.54 the precision
in the gold standard is 57.4%, and 64% in this additional precision measurement.
Comparison of Estimation Method and Gold Standard
Our threshold estimation technique provides a cheap and fast measure that can be used to see if
changes in the parameters of the matching algorithm, such as the similarity threshold, are likely to
improve the validity. For our method to be useful, the parameters of the matching algorithm that
optimize the estimated F1 score should be close to the parameters that optimize the real F1 score.
In Figure 4 we compare our estimated F1 score with the gold standard F1 score for different
similarity thresholds. Here we see that the scores are clearly correlated, and that the thresholds that
optimize the scores are indeed close. For the match level, the highest F1 score is found at a weight
threshold of 5.96, which is quite close to the threshold of 6.54 for the estimated F1 score. Also, note
Figure 4. Relation between the similarity threshold and F1 score for both the automated estimation and gold standard validation.
that for both validation approaches the F1 score does not vary much within the range from 5.96 to
6.54. In the analysis, we show that choosing one or the other makes no difference to the conclusions
from our analysis.
We also used both the gold standard and the estimation method to compare the results with and
without the two additional preprocessing techniques that we proposed. The results are presented in
Table 2. The two preprocessing techniques, summarized as merged and combined, refer to the step of
merging terms with similar spellings to a single column, and adding columns with combinations of
terms. The similarity threshold column reports the recommended threshold for both the gold standard
and our estimation method. The highlighted row is the combination with the best performance, where
we used both preprocessing techniques. This table mainly shows two things. Firstly, it provides
evidence that the combination of these choices is important. This was our expectation, because
merging terms with similar spelling mainly serves to improve recall by avoiding ’missing’ terms that
match, and combining terms serves to improve precision by adding more weight to rare combinations.
The second observation is that the estimated similarity threshold stays close to the gold standard
threshold even as the threshold varies wildly. This provides additional support for the usefulness of the
estimation procedure.
For our analysis, we use the results of the matching algorithm with a time window of 7 days after the
event, using a similarity threshold of 6.54. For this analysis, we only use GTD events in which at least
one fatal casualty was reported (N = 56,359). This narrows our focus to the subset of fatal terrorist
attacks, which has the benefit of reducing ambiguity in the GTD data regarding at what point of impact
an attack warrants documentation and can be defined as a terrorist attack. Also, this makes the test of
H1a more appropriate, because we focus on the effect of more fatal victims.
To better understand the multilevel structure of our data, we first visualize country-level differences
in media coverage. In absolute numbers, by far most event-article pairs are found for countries with
a high frequency of terrorist attacks, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. But when we look at the relative
news coverage, the picture emerges that countries that are geographically and culturally closest to the
United Kingdom are over-represented. Figure 5 shows the average number of news articles per event
per country, which higher scoring countries colored black. This number is much higher in countries,
such as France, Norway, the USA and Australia (where The Guardian has sister outlets) and the UK
itself. While this aligns with the news values underlying H2a and H2b, the total number of attacks in
these countries is also a factor. In Norway, in particular, the number of fatal attacks is very low, but the
massacre of 77 people by Anders Breivic in 2011 dominated the news.
We use a multilevel logistic regression model (Bates et al., 2015) to investigate the predictors of
which events are (1) or are not (0) covered by The Guardian, with events nested in countries. This
model serves as an approximation of the gatekeeping function from an event perspective.
The effects
of event characteristics on the probability that an event is covered are then expressed clearly in terms
of the odds ratios.
Table 2. Effect of preprocessing steps on optimal thresholds.
Preprocessing Similarity threshold Performance*
Merged** Combined*** Gold standard Estimated F1 P R
No No 17.55 20.39 55.94 49.32 64.60
Yes No 17.71 19.35 57.49 52.99 62.83
No Yes 12.82 12.62 55.28 63.95 48.67
Yes Yes 5.96 6.54 65.00 54.49 80.53
* Based on gold standard using the threshold that optimizes F1.
** Have terms with similar spelling been merged?
*** Have term combinations been added?
We include the following independent variables, corresponding to our hypotheses:
H1a: fatal victims (log). The number of people killed in the attack, using a natural log transformation
to account for heavy skew.
H1b: suicide attack. Binary value for whether or not a perpetrator committed suicide.
H2a: geographical distance. Country-level variable for distance of the UK (London) to other
countries. For the specific coordinates the center point of terrorist attacks in a country is used.
Distance is transformed to z-scores for more interpretable odds ratios and model convergence.
H2b: cultural distance. Country-level variables for cultural distance, measured as the difference in
cultural values and political decisions (see, e.g., Sheafer et al., 2014). We do not make a single score out
of these variables because they represent different cultural dimensions that are only moderately
correlated (r(38) = 0.358, p < .05).
Cultural values distance Euclidean distance of countries on the Traditional versus Secular-
Rational and Survival-Self Expression scales (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005). The scales are calculated
using data from Wave 5 (2005–2009) of the World Values Survey (Inglehart et al., 2005).
UN voting difference Percentage of votes in the United Nations general assembly where
a country voted different from the UK. Calculated over all votes with yes or no answers from
both countries since 2000.
For the full analysis, we can only include countries for which we could calculate the cultural
distance values (i.e., UN countries that participated in the WVS wave 5). The results presented in
Table 3 are based on this selection (N
= 7,606; N
= 38). For comparison, we also include the
results for a model with all countries (N
= 56,171; N
= 131). The coefficients are reported as
odds ratios, with standard errors for the log odds ratios, and the level 1 error variance is fixed to π
Starting from a base model with only random intercepts (1), we add the event level predictors (2),
geographical distance (3) and cultural distance (4). We evaluate our hypotheses based on the full
model (4), and in addition report the findings for the data including all countries to show how our
findings are robust in this larger and more diverse set of events.
The first two hypotheses are clearly supported. For every unit increase on the natural log scale of the
number of fatal victims, the odds increase by a factor of 1.77 (95% CI = 1.64–1.92, p < .001), meaning
that the events with more fatal victims are more likely to be covered (H1a). Suicide attacks (H1b) have
6.59 times the odds of non-suicide attacks (95% CI = 4.76–9.14, p < .001). The all countries model
Figure 5. Average number of news articles for every fatal GTD event per country.
shows similar results that also support H1a (odds ratio = 1.46, 95% CI = 1.43–1.49, p < .001) and H1b
(odds ratio = 8.03, 95% CI = 7.53–8.57, p < .001).
Our findings for the hypotheses regarding the news values of geographical proximity (H2a) and
cultural proximity (H2b) have an interesting implication for news values theory. If we do not take the
cultural distance into account, as in model 3, we do find support for H2a, confirming that events
physically close to home are generally more newsworthy. For every standard deviation that a country is
further away, the odds decrease by a factor of 0.67 (95% CI = 0.48–0.94, p < .05). This hypothesis is also
supported by the all countries model (odds ratio = 0.77, 95% CI = 0.66–0.91, p < .001). However, when
we include cultural distance in the model, the effect of geographical distance disappears (odds
ratio = 0.98, 95% CI = 0.74–1.30, p = .895). For reference, geographical distance is moderately
correlated with UN voting difference (r(38) = 0.496, p < .001) and is not correlated with cultural
values distance (r(38) = 0.110, p = .471). Instead, we now see negative effects of both cultural values
distance (odds ratio = 0.06, 95% CI = 0.02–0.23, p < .001) and UN voting difference (odds ratio = 0.01,
95% CI = 0.00–0.12, p < .01). Thus, based on the full model, we reject H2a and accept H2b.
Eect of Threshold on Results
Given the difficulty of determining the best possible threshold to use, it is important to confirm
whether using a slightly different threshold would change the conclusions. In Figure 6 we present the
results of the full model (model 4 in Table 3) for different similarity thresholds. The odds ratios
(y-axis) for each independent variable are plotted for similarity thresholds ranging from 1 to 20
(x-axis). The whiskers indicate the 95% confidence interval, and dotted horizontal lines are drawn at
y = 1 (equal odds) to more clearly show the direction and significance of effects.
The results show that the odds ratios are remarkably robust for changes in the similarity threshold.
Within a wide range of thresholds surrounding the threshold that optimizes the F1 score (6.54) the
odds ratios are very similar, and conclusions based on the direction and statistical reliability of effects
would have been identical. It is mainly for very low thresholds, where the precision gets very weak that
we get different results.
For higher thresholds, the recall decreases and only events with at least one
very high similarity score remain. This mainly widens the confidence intervals, but also slightly affects
the odds ratios.
Table 3. Multilevel logistic regression analysis, predicting news coverage of fatal GTD events nested in countries.
Fatal terrorist attack (GTD) covered in The Guardian
UN countries that participated in WVS All countries
1 2 3 4
Fixed effects Odds Ratios (SE
log OR1
Constant 0.50 (0.28)* 0.29 (0.28)*** 0.23 (0.27)*** 5.05 (0.51)** 0.19 (0.12)***
H1a: fatal victims (log) 1.76 (0.04)*** 1.76 (0.04)*** 1.77 (0.04)*** 1.46 (0.01)***
H1b: suicide attack 6.57 (0.17)*** 6.54 (0.17)*** 6.59 (0.17)*** 8.03 (0.03)***
H2a: geographical distance (z) 0.67 (0.17)* 0.98 (0.14) 0.77 (0.08)**
H2b: cultural values distance 0.06 (0.70)***
H2b: UN voting difference 0.01 (1.43)**
Random Effects
3.29 3.29 3.29 3.29 3.29
2.16 1.99 1.63 0.47 1.16
Deviance 5972.1 5590.9 5585.8 5556.8 51,657
381.2*** 5.1* 29.0***
AIC 5,976.1 5,598.9 5,595.8 5,570.8 51,667
BIC 5,990.0 5,626.7 5,630.5 5,619.4 51,711
7,608 7,608 7,608 7,608 56,175
38 38 38 38 131
* p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01; *** p < 0.001.
Coefficients are transformed to odds ratios, but SE reported for log odds ratios.
For our best approximation of the true gatekeeping function, it makes sense to use the threshold
that optimizes the F1 score of the event matches. However, it is also interesting to see that the results
are mostly the same if we would have used a much higher threshold, where we sacrifice recall for better
precision. Overall, this indicates that the results of the matching algorithm, even with imperfect
accuracy and using our weakly supervised method for determining the threshold, can reliably be
used to estimate the gatekeeping function. Note that for other data and predictors of coverage,
changing the threshold might have a stronger impact on odds ratios, so for other studies we
recommend performing the same comparison of statistical models for different thresholds as shown
in Figure 6.
We presented a computational method for linking event data to news articles, and demonstrated how
this method can be used to investigate news selection. Our validity tests suggest that the method
performs good enough to use the linked data directly in an analysis, and our example analysis
demonstrates how these data can be used to analyze the journalistic gatekeeping process on a large
scale. We conclude that this method enables the conceptual gatekeeping model to be formalized as
a statistical model, similar to the method proposed by (Soroka, 2012) but from an event perspective.
Figure 6. Odds ratios of full model with 95% CI for different similarity thresholds.
Hypotheses concerning multiple event level predictors of coverage can then be tested in a multivariate
The example analysis presented in this paper demonstrated a simple case where we only investi-
gated event-level predictors of whether an event is covered. Beyond this classic gatekeeping question,
the linked event-article data can be used to combine event-level data with a content analysis of the
news message to also investigate how an event is covered. For example, a sentiment analysis could
reveal whether certain types of terrorist attacks are covered with different emotions, and we could
analyze which attacks are actually labeled as “terrorism” by journalists. Furthermore, data about news
outlet and time could be included, which could be used to investigate organizational level factors and
institutional level shifts. By leveraging event databases and computational techniques for linking them
to news articles, large-scale event-level analysis can allow us to ask new questions, and approach old
questions from a different perspective.
A novel methodological contribution of this study is the method for estimating a good similarity
threshold without relying on a gold standard. Based on the fact that news coverage of an event is most
likely to follow shortly after it occurs, and can never precede it, we can estimate a precision and recall
score, and their harmonic mean (F1). We found that the similarity threshold in the algorithm that
optimizes this estimated F1 score lies close to the threshold that optimize the ’real’ F1 score. This
should be tested on more cases, because if it holds true within a passable margin of error, it could be
used to determine good parameters for event-to-news matching tasks in cases where extensive gold
standards are not easily available. The parameter estimation technique might also be generalized to
other tasks where document similarity is used to study news coverage. In this paper, we proposed
a simple implementation of the idea that we can use time to estimate a false-positive rate based on
matches that are impossible, but this idea can be generalized to matches that are less plausible. For
example, for the task of identifying whether different news articles cover the same event, it is safe to
assume that these news articles should be published around the same time. By fitting the observed
matches to an expected probability distribution of the time differences of news article pairs, we can
calculate which settings of the matching algorithm optimize this fit. Thus, this idea might more
broadly have applications in the study of news flows and text reuse.
An important practical observation is that the results of the statistical analysis are remarkably
robust for small to moderate changes in the threshold. This suggests that for statistically investigating
the effects of event characteristics on the odds of news coverage, when using this event matching
approach on a sufficiently large scale, it is good enough to use an approximately good threshold. As
a pragmatic first step for this type of analysis, one could use our parameter estimation technique for
determining a good threshold value, and then perform the analysis for a range of thresholds around
this value, as we did in Figure 6.
Regarding the limitations of the event matching approach, it should be assumed that large event
archives are never completely accurate, and that the criteria for including certain events and excluding
others can be inconsistent (for a discussion of terrorism archives, see LaFree, 2019). Since news data
are often an important information source for the creation of event databases, distortions in the news
coverage can also spill over, thus confounding our real-world input. This can also lead to differences
between countries due to different media systems and press freedom, which affects the supply of
information based on which event databases are often maintained. There can also be structural biases
in the matching data, because different types of events and countries tend to be covered in different
ways. This can affect the accuracy of a matching algorithm based on text similarity, because certain
ways of covering events might be less similar to how events are described in the database.
A key avenue for progress is to pursue higher precision and recall. Using the threshold with the
highest F1 score (F1 = 65%), the recall was good (80.53%), but the precision was on the low side
(54.49%). In other words, the algorithm managed to find about four out of five of the actual event-
news pairs, but almost one out of two matches was a false positive. This is not bad for this type of
extreme rare event problem, but it does mean that there is still much noise in our analysis, and likely
also structural bias. We identify two main ways in which our current approach can contribute toward
further development. Firstly, it can be used as a preparatory step to cull the vast majority of irrelevant
event-article pairs. With a recall of 80.53%, over 99.943% of all possible matches (i.e., news articles
within 7 days after the event) could be removed. Another method, possibly involving more compu-
tationally demanding techniques, could then be used to improve precision with less harm to recall.
Secondly, this preparatory step also makes manual content analysis of the remaining article pairs
feasible. With minor concessions to recall, this could be used to overcome human limitations in
developing gold standards and training data for machine learning approaches.
We have argued that linking event archives to news articles can be a powerful method for analyzing
the gatekeeping process. The tool provided with this paper can be used to perform this type of analysis
or as a starting point for improving the method and creating better gold standards. To accommodate
a closer investigation of improvements or flaws in our code and method, the online appendix makes
our analysis fully replicable and has detailed documentation. The open-source software will actively be
maintained, and relevant new developments will be integrated.
1. The RNewsflow package, available on CRAN:
3. In our data, the 446,612 news articles and 112,019 events yielded 86,274,229 possible matches within a 7 day time
window, and only 49,079 of these were actual matches (according to our results using a threshold of 6.54).
4. Specifically, we used the fields: summary, city, country_txt, attacktype_txt, targtype_txt and targsubtype_txt
(target type), natlty_txt (target nationality), gname (terrorist group name), gsubname, weapptype_txt and weapde-
tail (weapon type and detail), and victims. For numbered fields (weaptype1_txt, weaptype2_txt, etc.) all fields were
5. Example of a GTD event:
8. Our population query contained 165 terms such as “dead”, “attack”, “bomb” and “kidnapped”. The full query is
available in the online appendix
9. Note that certain languages it is generally better to use lemmatization instead of stemming. In R this is supported
for some languages in the udpipe (Wijffels, 2019) and spacyr (Benoit & Matsuo, 2020) packages.
10. Specifically, we merged terms that (1) start with the same character, (2) at least 2/3 character tri-grams were
identical, and (3) no more than 4 tri-grams were different
11. We also divided the idf scores by the highest possible idf score so that values are bounded between 0 and 1. This
division by a constant does not at all affect the analysis, but makes interpretation easier.
12. Our actual calculation is different, because we calculate the rate of matches over the total number of event-article
comparisons, instead of the rate over time
14. To illustrate this, the second validation set includes comments about ambiguous cases
15. The analysis using all data is available in the online appendix. The only notable difference in findings is that the
effect of cultural values distance – one of the two cultural distance variables – disappeared.
16. We also fit a multilevel negative binomial model using the number of articles per event as the response, to test
whether analyzing the amount of articles rather than whether or not an event is covered would have changed the
conclusions. The incidence rate ratios were very similar to the odds ratios of the logistic regression, and the
substantive conclusions would have been the same. However, the assumption that incidents (i.e., the articles to
which an event is linked) are independent is clearly violated, and the model also failed to converge. Since most
variance is in whether or not an event is covered, we reported the simpler and more reliable logistic model.
17. Wave 6 (2010-2014) is available, but without the UK. We assume that these values changed little within the period
of our study, which is consistent with comparisons based on previous waves.
18. This lowest threshold is already fairly high. Of all comparisons between events and news articles published within
7 days after the event, only 0.71% pass this threshold.
We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers at Communication Methods and Measures for their detailed and
insightful comments.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [WE 2888/7-1]; National Endowment for the
Humanities [HJ-253500-17]; Dutch: Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO) [463-17-004].
Kasper Welbers
Chung-Hong Chan
Hartmut Wessler
Marc Jungblut
Abubakar, A. T.. (2020). News values and the ethical dilemmas of covering violent extremism. Journalism & Mass
Communication Quarterly, 97(1), 278–298.
Bates, D., Mächler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2015). Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. Journal of
Statistical Software, 67(1), 1–48.
Bell, J. B. (1978). terrorist scripts and live-action spectaculars. Columbia Journalism Review, 17(1), 47.
Benoit, K., & Matsuo, A. (2020). spacyr: Wrapper to the ’spacy’ ’NLP’ library. R package version 1.2.1. https://CRAN.
Blei, D. M., Ng, A. Y., & Jordan, M. I. (2003). Latent Dirichlet allocation. The Journal of Machine Learning Research, 3,
Boumans, J., Trilling, D., Vliegenthart, R., & Boomgaarden, H. (2018). The agency makes the (Online) news world go
round: The impact of news agency content on print and online news. International Journal of Communication, 12,
Burggraaff, C., & Trilling, D. (2020). Through a different gate: An automated content analysis of how online news and
print news differ. Journalism, 21(1), 112–129.
Chang, T.-K., Shoemaker, P. J., & Brendlinger, N. (1987). Determinants of international news coverage in the US media.
Communication Research, 14(4), 396–414.
Christian, D., Froke, P., Jacobsen, S., & Minthorn, D. (2014). The associated press stylebook and briefing on media law.
The Associated Press.
Elmasry, M. H., & El Nawawy, M. (2020). The value of Muslim and non-Muslim life: A comparative content analysis of
elite American newspaper coverage of terrorism victims. Journalism, .
Farnen, R. F. (1990). Terrorism and the mass media: A systemic analysis of a symbiotic process. Studies in Conict &
Terrorism, 13(2), 99–143.
Gadarian, S. K. (2010). The politics of threat: How terrorism news shapes foreign policy attitudes. The Journal of Politics,
72(2), 469–483.
Galtung, J., & Ruge, M. H. (1965). The structure of foreign news. The presentation of the Congo, Cuba and Cyprus
crises in four Norwegian newspapers. Journal of Peace Research, 2(1), 64–90.
Gruenewald, J., Pizarro, J., & Chermak, S. M. (2009). Race, gender, and the newsworthiness of homicide incidents.
Journal of Criminal Justice, 37(3), 262–272.
Guha-Sapir, D., Below, R., & Hoyois, P. (2014). EM-DAT: International disaster database. Centre for Research on the
Epidemiology of Disasters.
Hamborg, F., Donnay, K., & Gipp, B. (2019). Automated identification of media bias in news articles: An interdisci-
plinary literature review. International Journal on Digital Libraries, 20(4), 391–415.
Hamborg, F., Lachnit, S., Schubotz, M., Hepp, T., & Gipp, B. (2018). Giveme5W: Main event retrieval from news articles
by extraction of the five journalistic W questions. In: G. Chowdhury, J. McLeod, V. Gillet, & P. Willett (eds),
Transforming digital worlds (356-366). iConference 2018. Springer.
Harcup, T., & O’neill, D. (2017). What is news? News values revisited (again). Journalism Studies, 18(12), 1470–1488.
Hoffman, B. (2017). Inside Terrorism. Columbia University Press.
Hopp, F. R., Fisher, J. T., & Weber, R. (2020). Dynamic transactions between news frames and sociopolitical events: An
integrative, hidden Markov model approach. Journal of Communication, 70(3), 335–355.
Hopp, F. R., Schaffer, J. A., Fisher, J. T., & Weber, R. (2019). CoRe: The GDELT interface for the advancement of
communication research. Computational Communication Research, 1(1), 13–44.
Inglehart, R., Haerpfer, C., Moreno, A., Welzel, C., Kizilova, K., Diez-Medrano, D. (2005). World values survey: Round
five - country-pooled datafile version. JD Systems Institute.
Inglehart, R., & Welzel, C. (2005). Modernization, cultural change, and democracy: The human development sequence.
Cambridge University Press.
Iyengar, S. (1990). The accessibility bias in politics: Television news and public opinion. International Journal of Public
Opinion Research, 2(1), 1–15.
Kearns, E. M., Betus, A. E., & Lemieux, A. F. (2019). Why do some terrorist attacks receive more media attention than
others? Justice Quarterly, 36(6), 985–1022.
King, G., & Lowe, W. (2003). An automated information extraction tool for international conflict data with performance
as good as human coders: A rare events evaluation design. International Organization, 57(3), 617–642. https://doi.
LaFree, G. (2019). The evolution of terrorism event databases. In the oxford handbook of terrorism. Oxford University
Leetaru, K., & Schrodt, P. A. (2013). GDELT: Global data on events, location, and tone, 1979–2012. In ISA annual
convention (1–49).
Lewin, K. (1947). Frontiers in group dynamics II. Channels of group life; social planning and action research. Human
Relations, 1(2), 143–153.
Lewis, J. (2012). Terrorism and news narratives. In D. Freedman, & D. K. Thussu (Eds.), Media & Terrorism: Global
Perspectives, 257–270. SAGE Publications Ltd,
Linder, F., Desmarais, B., Burgess, M., & Giraudy, E. (2018). Text as policy: Measuring policy similarity through bill text
reuse. Policy Studies Journal, 48(2), 546–574.
Mikolov, T., Chen, K., Corrado, G., & Dean, J. (2013). Ecient estimation of word representations in vector space.
Proceedings of the International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR 2013).
Mozer, R., Miratrix, L., Kaufman, A. R., & Jason Anastasopoulos, L. (2020). Matching with text data: An experimental
evaluation of methods for matching documents and of measuring match quality. Political Analysis, 28 (4), 445–468.
Nicholls, T. (2019). Detecting textual reuse in news stories, at scale. International Journal of Communication, 13, 4173–
Rosengren, K. E. (1970). International news: Intra and extra media data. Acta Sociologica, 13(2), 96–109.
Schultz, I. (2007). The journalistic gut feeling: Journalistic doxa, news habitus and orthodox news values. Journalism
Practice, 1(2), 190–207.
Sheafer, T., Shenhav, S. R., Takens, J., & Van Atteveldt, W. (2014). Relative political and value proximity in mediated
public diplomacy: The effect of state-level homophily on international frame building. Political Communication, 31
(1), 149–167.
Shoemaker, P. J., Eichholz, M., Kim, E., & Wrigley, B. (2001). Individual and routine forces in gatekeeping. Journalism &
Mass Communication Quarterly, 78(2), 233–246.
Shoemaker, P. J., & Vos, T. (2009). Gatekeeping theory. Routledge.
Soroka, S. N. (2012). The gatekeeping function: Distributions of information in media and the real world. The Journal of
Politics, 74(2), 514–528.
Sparck Jones, K. (1972). A statistical interpretation of term specificity and its application in retrieval. Journal of
Documentation, 28(1), 11–21.
Sui, M., Dunaway, J., Sobek, D., Abad, A., Goodman, L., & Saha, P. (2017). US news coverage of global terrorist incidents.
Mass Communication and Society, 20(6), 895–908.
Trilling, D., & van Hoof, M. (2020). Between article and topic: News events as level of analysis and their computational
identification. Digital Journalism, 8 (10), 1317–1337.
Van Atteveldt, W., & Peng, T.-Q. (2018). When communication meets computation: Opportunities, challenges, and
pitfalls in computational communication science. Communication Methods and Measures, 12(2–3), 81–92. https://
Van Belle, D. A. (2000). New York times and network TV news coverage of foreign disasters: The significance of the
insignificant variables. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 77(1), 50–70.
Weimann, G., & Winn, C. (1994). The theater of terror: Mass media and international terrorism. Longman.
Welbers, K., Van Atteveldt, W., Kleinnijenhuis, J., & Ruigrok, N. (2018). A gatekeeper among gatekeepers: News agency
influence in print and online newspapers in the netherlands. Journalism Studies, 19(3), 315–333.
White, D. M. (1950). The Gatekeeper: A case study in the selection of news. Journalism Quarterly, 27(4), 383–390.
Wijffels, J. (2019). Udpipe: Tokenization, parts of speech tagging, lemmatization and dependency parsing with the ’UDPipe’
’NLP’ toolkit. R package version 0.8.3.
Wu, H. D. (2000). Systemic determinants of international news coverage: A comparison of 38 countries. Journal of
Communication, 50(2), 110–130.
Zhang, D., Shoemaker, P. J., & Wang, X. (2013). Reality and newsworthiness: Press coverage of international terrorism
by China and the United States. Asian Journal of Communication, 23(5), 449–471.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
When comparing media coverage or analysing which content people are exposed to, researchers need to abstract from individual articles. At the same time, aggregating them into broad topics or issues often is too coarse and loses nuance. Both theoretically and methodologically, the analysis of an appropriate intermediate level of aggregation is underdeveloped. This article advances research in various areas of journalism studies by developing a theoretical argument for introducing the “news event” as a level of analysis. Based on this, we discuss several computational approaches to empirically detect such news events in large corpora of news coverage in an unsupervised manner. We provide two approaches: One based on traditional tf·idf based cosine similarities, and one that relies on word embeddings, in particular the softcosine measure. Both methods, combined with a network clustering algorithm, perform very well in detecting news events. We apply this method in a case study of 45k news articles from different outlets, in which we show that different news outlets have distinct profiles in the events they cover.
Full-text available
A spate of terrorist attacks in the Muslim-majority world and the non-Muslim-majority West has sparked debates about an alleged double standard in Western news coverage of terrorism victims, with critics alleging Western news outlets are less concerned with Muslim victims than non-Muslim victims. This content analysis comparatively examined American newspaper framing of two terror attacks occurring in the non-Muslim West with three attacks occurring in the Muslim-majority world. Findings show American papers covered attacks in non-Muslim-majority societies prominently and framed them as acts of terrorism, and covered attacks in Muslim-majority societies scantily and framed them as internal conflicts.
Full-text available
This article introduces the interface for communication research (iCoRe) to access, explore, and analyze the Global Database of Events, Language and Tone (GDELT; Leetaru & Schrodt, 2013). GDELT provides a vast, open source, and continuously updated repository of online news and event metadata collected from tens of thousands of news outlets around the world. Despite GDELT’s promise for advancing communication science, its massive scale and complex data structures have hindered efforts of communication scholars aiming to access and analyze GDELT. We thus developed iCoRe, an easy-to-use web interface that (a) provides fast access to the data available in GDELT, (b) shapes and processes GDELT for theory-driven applications within communication research, and (c) enables replicability through transparent query and analysis protocols. After providing an overview of how GDELT’s data pertain to addressing communication research questions, we provide a tutorial of utilizing iCoRe across three theory-driven case studies. We conclude this article with a discussion and outlook of iCoRe’s future potential for advancing communication research.
Full-text available
Terrorist attacks often dominate news coverage as reporters seek to provide the public with information. Yet, not all incidents receive equal attention. Why do some terrorist attacks receive more media coverage than others? We argue that perpetrator religion is the largest predictor of news coverage, while target type, being arrested, and fatalities will also impact coverage. We examined news coverage from LexisNexis Academic and for all terrorist attacks in the United States between 2006 and 2015 (N = 136). Controlling for target type, fatalities, and being arrested, attacks by Muslim perpetrators received, on average, 357% more coverage than other attacks. Our results are robust against a number of counterarguments. The disparities in news coverage of attacks based on the perpetrator’s religion may explain why members of the public tend to fear the “Muslim terrorist” while ignoring other threats. More representative coverage could help to bring public perception in line with reality.
Full-text available
Media bias, i.e., slanted news coverage, can strongly impact the public perception of the reported topics. In the social sciences, research over the past decades has developed comprehensive models to describe media bias and effective, yet often manual and thus cumbersome, methods for analysis. In contrast, in computer science fast, automated, and scalable methods are available, but few approaches systematically analyze media bias. The models used to analyze media bias in computer science tend to be simpler compared to models established in the social sciences, and do not necessarily address the most pressing substantial questions, despite technically superior approaches. Computer science research on media bias thus stands to profit from a closer integration of models for the study of media bias developed in the social sciences with automated methods from computer science. This article first establishes a shared conceptual understanding by mapping the state of the art from the social sciences to a framework, which can be targeted by approaches from computer science. Next, we investigate different forms of media bias and review how each form is analyzed in the social sciences. For each form, we then discuss methods from computer science suitable to (semi-)automate the corresponding analysis. Our review suggests that suitable, automated methods from computer science, primarily in the realm of natural language processing, are already available for each of the discussed forms of media bias, opening multiple directions for promising further research in computer science in this area.
A central goal of news research is to understand the interplay between news coverage and sociopolitical events. Although a great deal of work has elucidated how events drive news coverage, and how in turn news coverage influences societal outcomes, integrative systems-level models of the reciprocal interchanges between these two processes are sparse. Herein, we present a macro-scale investigation of the dynamic transactions between news frames and events using Hidden Markov Models (HMMs), focusing on morally charged news frames and sociopolitical events. Using 3,501,141 news records discussing 504,759 unique events, we demonstrate that sequences of frames and events can be characterized in terms of “hidden states” containing distinct moral frame and event relationships, and that these “hidden states” can forecast future news frames and events. This work serves to construct a path toward the integrated study of the news-event cycle across multiple research domains.
This article introduces the interface for communication research (iCoRe) to access, explore, and analyze the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT; Leetaru & Schrodt, 2013). GDELT provides a vast, open source, and continuously updated repository of online news and event metadata collected from tens of thousands of news outlets around the world. Despite GDELT’s promise for advancing communication science, its massive scale and complex data structures have hindered efforts of communication scholars aiming to access and analyze GDELT. We thus developed iCoRe, an easy-to-use web interface that (a) provides fast access to the data available in GDELT, (b) shapes and processes GDELT for theory-driven applications within communication research, and (c) enables replicability through transparent query and analysis protocols. After providing an overview of how GDELT’s data pertain to addressing communication research questions, we provide a tutorial of utilizing iCoRe across three theory-driven case studies. We conclude this article with a discussion and outlook of iCoRe’s future potential for advancing communication research.
This article examines the relationship between news media and violent extremism to explore the ethical issues emanating from it. It draws on news value theory and journalism ethics literature and analyzes data from individual and group interviews with 41 journalists and newsroom observations to highlight the ethical challenges of covering the Boko Haram insurgency. Findings suggest that journalists face dilemmas in content selection, source relationship, framing stories, and dealing with victims; and that terror reporting impacts on their personal safety and professional sustainability. The elements of newsworthiness push the media toward excessive reporting of extremism but journalism ethics plays restraining roles.
The identification of substantively similar policy proposals in legislation is important to scholars of public policy and legislative politics. Manual approaches are prohibitively costly in constructing datasets that accurately represent policymaking across policy domains, jurisdictions, or time. We propose the use of an algorithm that identifies similar sequences of text (i.e., text reuse), applied to legislative text, to measure the similarity of the policy proposals advanced by two bills. We study bills from U.S. state legislatures. We present three ground truth tests, applied to a corpus of 500,000 bills. First, we show that bills introduced by ideologically similar sponsors exhibit a high degree of text reuse, that bills classified by the National Conference of State Legislatures as covering the same policies exhibit a high degree of text reuse, and that rates of text reuse between states correlate with policy diffusion network ties between states. In an empirical application of our similarity measure, we find that Republican state legislators introduce legislation that is more similar to legislation introduced by Republicans in other states, than is legislation introduced by Democratic state legislators to legislation introduced by Democrats in other states.