The Fourth Branch

United We Stand for Journalism

One of their peers became the story – and the focus on Twitter – when the White House revoked CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass after a heated exchange with the president.

The Trump Administration’s ban of CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta resulted in an uproar from the journalism community, and Twitter proves it. Last week, there were 133 mentions of CNN and 105 mentions of Jim Acosta from Washington, D.C., journalists and pundits. The group’s 10 most-popular tweets on the issue all came from reporters from other publications than CNN, including The New York Times, PBS, CBS, Washington Post and the Daily Beast.

Their tweets originally focused on the Administration’s changing story on the events that transpired during the White House’s press briefing and then shifted to celebrate U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly’s ruling, ordering the White House to temporarily restore Acosta’s press credentials.

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Trumping the Midterms

Over the past week, journalists tweeted about President Trump more than 2.5 times as often as they did about the upcoming midterm elections or voting. It appears the media sees the midterms as a test of the country’s support—or opposition—of the president, rather than a vote for a new Congress.

In the week leading up to the midterm elections, Washington, D.C., journalists and pundits were focused on one politician: President Trump. Trump is not up for re-election until 2020, but the media continues to view the president as a key player in this year’s election.

The Fourth Branch’s mentions of the president rose to nearly 1,400 tweets this week, compared to only 529 tweets that discussed voting or the election. It appears the media sees the midterms as a referendum on the president.

Tomorrow, we will see what the country decides.

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When Tragedy Strikes, Twitter Looks to Journalists

There was a dramatic increase in journalists’ average retweets per tweet on Saturday, the day of the synagogue attack.

For most of the past week, Washington, D.C., journalists had a low average retweet-per-tweet count. But that changed Saturday in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack.

On Saturday, the group had approximately 196 tweets related to the shooting—nearly half of the total tweets that day. The information clearly resonated with audiences, as there were nearly 800 retweets per tweet.

Interestingly, the media’s tweets about other hot topics earlier in the week, such as the bombs mailed to anti-Trump leaders, did not receive nearly as much engagement.

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New York Times Not Seen as “Failing” by Media Peers

Despite Trump’s best efforts to disqualify the New York Times, the publication’s reporters continue to drive the Twitter conversation among Washington, D.C., journalists and pundits.

We know President Trump is not a fan of the New York Times. He’s referred to the publication as the “failing New York Times” several times. But it seems the journalism community disagrees.

Among Washington, D.C., journalists and pundits, five out of the eight most retweeted accounts this past week were New York Times reporters, including Maggie Haberman with 46 retweets, Jonathan Martin with 31 retweets, Peter Baker with 31 retweets, Eric Lipton with 20 retweets, and Alex Burns with 19 retweets.

Five of Haberman’s retweets, 11 of Martin’s retweets, seven of Baker’s retweets, five of Lipton’s retweets and seven of Burns’ retweets were from other New York Times reporters. New York Times reporters seem to have each other’s Twitter backs, but the majority of their retweets came from other Washington, D.C., reporters.

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Public vs. Peer Popularity

Ezra Klein, founder and editor-at-large of Vox, is responsible for four of the five most popular tweets from D.C. journalists and pundits in the past week. But when we look at who D.C. journalists and pundits are retweeting, Klein is nowhere to be found.

Four out of the five most retweeted tweets from D.C. journalists and pundits in the past week came from Ezra Klein, founder and editor-at-large of Vox. Klein saw a big spike in retweets in the past week. His tweets average about 815 retweets, but that number jumped to 1,595 this week.

Sam Stein, politics editor at The Daily Beast and an MSNBC contributor, was the only other journalist to make the list. All five of the most popular tweets from D.C. journalists and pundits were about the Ford and Kavanaugh Senate hearings.

Interestingly, when we look at the most frequently retweeted accounts by D.C. journalists and pundits, Klein is nowhere to be found. His peers retweeted him just seven times. In comparison, Burgess Everett – a Politico congressional reporter – had 73 retweets from D.C. journalists and pundits.

The Takeaway? Klein’s tweets are resonating with the general public, but not so much with the D.C. media.

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Obsessed With The President

Even in his death, Sen. John McCain can’t take the media spotlight away from the president.

It may have felt like Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) death and funeral services dominated the social conversation and news coverage over the last week, but Twitter tells a different story.

D.C. journalists and pundits had 819 tweets about “Trump” over the last week, plus an additional 205 tweets that mentioned the word “president.” In comparison, this group tweeted 580 times about “McCain” (they also had 278 mentions of “John,” but those were most likely in the same tweets).

Even the death of a 30+ year senator and two-time presidential candidate can’t take journalists’ attention off of the president.

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Delayed News

The long-awaited meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Helsinki Summit on Monday, July 16, was delayed by the late arrival of Putin’s plane. And, the Twitterverse had to wait even longer for D.C. journalists’ social media reports.

The two presidents gave opening remarks around 7:15 a.m. ET – nearly an hour after the scheduled 6:20 a.m. ET start. But journalists did not tweet much about the summit until after the presidents’ private lunch meeting (at around 9:30 a.m. ET). The reporters’ tweeting then escalated dramatically during and following the press conference (at around 11:10 a.m. ET).

Journalists’ tweet pattern on Monday was noticeably different than the rest of the week. As you can see in the graph, from Tuesday through Sunday, their tweets were spread throughout the day, with peaks around 9:00 a.m. ET and 2:00 p.m. ET.

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Less is more

When it comes to tweeting by D.C. journalists and pundits, sometimes less is more.

Given the busy news week, it’s no surprise the Fourth Branch was prolific on Twitter this past week. The 10 journalists with the most tweets this week ranged from @blakehounshell, with 198 tweets, to@JakeSherman, with 61 tweets.  But none of those reporters or their tweets made the list of the Fourth Branch’s most-retweeted tweets.

That top honor goes to PBS NewsHour Washington Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, whose tweet about President Trump making fun of the #MeToo movement garnered more than 8,000 retweets. A common theme among most of the Fourth Branch’s most-retweeted tweets? Trump.

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Tweet Less, Get More Engagement?

Journalists’ Twitter activity understandably dropped off during the weekend. But that’s exactly when engagement with their tweets took off. Sunday marked the highest rate of retweets among the group, with an average of 126 retweets per post.

One reason for this uptick in engagement? A Sunday tweet from New York Times Washington Correspondent Michael Shear on the Justin Trudeau news conference garnered more than 16,000 retweets alone. In fact, three of the top five most-retweeted tweets from journalists were posted on Saturday or Sunday.

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Members Only

Even with the “Retweets are not endorsements” disclaimer, it’s interesting to see which accounts D.C. journalists and pundits are sharing with their followers.

Spoiler alert: They tend to “keep it in the 4th Branch family.” The 10 most-retweeted accounts by journalists are … well other journalists.

Seven of the 10 most-retweeted accounts are POLITICO and reporters at POLITICO—with most of the retweets coming from their colleagues at POLITCO. The other three reporters getting the most retweet love hail from:

  • The Washington Post;
  • The New York Times; and
  • MSNBC.