How To Write a Culture Shot

What is this all about? We have some tools that give us an opportunity to explore cultural topics and challenge our own ideas in a way that would never have been possible before by working with a very large amount of data.

This guide aims to help you through the process of writing a post for Culture Shots, in which we explore how cultural topics are framed by media outlets in different countries and languages. It is qualitative and discovery-driven — we are sharing our beginning discovery of the diverse landscape around cultural concepts in media.

The Culture Shot, in other words, is a first good step towards questions about culture and media. Deeper, more quantitative conclusions about cultural framing in media would require additional sets of data with more rigorous analysis; contact your NewsFrames Team member for more information if interested.

Before You Start…

  • The main requirement is your interest in data journalism and how mass media talks about culture!
  • It’s helpful to have some experience with spreadsheet software (e.g. Excel) and WordPress, but not absolutely required.
  • Contact a member of the NewsFrames team to get an account on NewsFrames, where you will be able to create a space for work and shared projects, and create an account on Media Cloud, a tool that helps us work with collections of media posts.
  • At the moment, understanding English is needed to get familiar with NewsFrames and Media Cloud tools. An introductory training session with a member of the NewsFrames team or with experienced members of the GV community is highly advisable — feel free to reach out.
  • Browser: if possible, it is highly recommended to use Chrome (Media Cloud does not work so well on Safari, and is not supported by FireFox at this time.)

Writing a Culture Shot, Step-By-Step

  1. Choose a topic.Try starting from some simple intercultural terms – family, love, religion, death, marriage, culture, children, travel, cuisine, fashion, race, work, aging, balance, celebration, tragedy, fun/funny, men/women/gender, technology, communication…Go through some recent news reports in the media you’re investigating and see if cultural topics emerge that you would like to explore; while you are thinking about your post, be attentive when reading your morning/evening news, Twitter feeds etc. – it may well be that something gets you particularly interested.Discuss your choices with Connie or other members of the NewsFrames team to get some feedback.
  2. Run the Media Cloud query.
    Saved search NewsFrames page

    Saved search on the NewsFrames page

    • When you start, try your first query by putting a keyword in the Media Cloud textbox within NewsFrames.
    • Click the link to connect directly to the MediaCloud search on their website. After you run a search and get the results you want to be working with, make sure to save those queries at the right side of the NewsFrames screen, in the MediaCloud section. After that, you will be able to access results of your search through the NewsFrames dashboard. (see how to save queries here)
  3. Work more with the Media Cloud queries.
    • Define 1 word (it should most probably be your key word) or 2-3 words separated by the ‘AND’ operator
      Media Cloud query

      Screenshot of a query for “Patrimoine” and “Culture” in France in a one month time-span

      Results of query

      Screenshot of the Results of the above Media Cloud query (View larger image)

    • Choose one or more media collections from Media Cloud. The easiest way to do this is to type a keyword in the search box, e.g. “France”, and select the relevant collection or collections. Possibly, add a query on Global Voices collection for comparison (note that GV collection may not be relevant if you are investigating only mass media outlets, as it contains a lot of blogs, NGOs’ websites etc.).
    • Choose the interval of dates – try choosing different time periods (1, 3, 6, 12 months…) to see what changes over the time before choosing the one you'll focus on!
    • Save the queries at the NewsFrames dashboard to be retained, in order to “secure” or “stabilize” them (more help on saving here).
    • Use the Download CSV options to get spreadsheets (optionally transform them into Excel files) to see all the articles, sort them, see the word counts, draw graphs…

    Hints for Analyzing the Word Clouds

    • Pick relevant keywords or ones that repeat a lot!
    • Pick words that STAND OUT + and explore words that can be merged in one topic as one.
    • If you don't understand what those words are doing there – go for them
    • Be accurate when analysing individual words with 2 or more meanings
    • Try to address your own biases, motivations, and limitations as you explore this story.
    • Note that if you click on any word in a tag cloud, you get a list of all posts found that contain that word to browse through them.
  4. Draft the Post.
    IMPORTANT: if you’re not sure about something at any point, don’t hesitate to contact your NewsFrames lead.

    • For each keyword that you choose to cover in the post, pick an article or two to illustrate with a title and an excerpt sentence.
    • Have a conversation with your NewsFrames contact on the above choices.
    • Write out a plan, write the post, either in the NewsFrames space or in WordPress, add quotes from relevant articles.
    • Pick a photo for the top of the article (public domain or CC licensed). The insertion of the cloud of highlighted terms is done by Connie, but she may need your help.
    • Add this text in the Tagline textbox: Reporting on framing patterns in news coverage on cultural themes, in a fun, small dose
    • Close with Global Voices stories connected with themes that you explore in the post: are there stories that challenge the framing in the media we've chosen to look at?
  5. When the article is finalized, send to the editorial team for final proofreading and green light before publishing.