The Twitter Election: style

OK, so it’s been coined the “Twitter Election.” And, indeed, much has been made of the Twitter traffic surrounding Tuesday’s English-language leaders’ debate. But which debate comments set off the most traffic? And which leader was really most popular on Twitter, and when? And, how do journalists cover that story? has created an innovative answer to that last question — and in doing so answered our other questions, to boot. How? A fascinating interactive feature we like to call the debate video/Twitter analyzer mash-up. We talk to David Skok, managing editor of about how social media is changing the way journalists cover big stories — and how they pulled the Twitter analyzer off in less than 10 hours.

J-Source: Do you think social media is forcing journalists to change the way they cover the election if they want to stay relevant?

David Skok: I wrote a column at the beginning of the campaign that touches on these issues. In some ways it’s a return to the old model of political campaigning to the days before there was a mass media.

Social media is providing politicians a direct way to engage with voters. Once it reaches critical mass it’s entirely possible that politicians won’t need journalists to get their message out. On the one hand this is concerning because it erodes our relevancy in our traditional roles as gatekeepers.

But it’s also incredibly exciting because instead of draining our resources to cover a ‘pack journalism’ media campaign event, (that can be followed either on a livestream or via Twitter) reporters can instead focus on what they do best: Holding those seeking office accountable.
This can be done through fact-checking, investigative reporting, spotting trends: All things which take time and resources.

J-Source: What other innovative takes on election coverage will we see from Global News?

DS: I can only speak to the side of our coverage.

We’ve just launched a new section on our election website that takes into account the ‘social buzz.’ This was a joint partnership with a Vancouver-based website called, PoliTwitter, that is able to track a database of over 600 MPs, candidates and all the riding hash tags being used in the election campaign. We’ll continue to expand  on some of the trends we’re tracking including which parties and candidates are engaging the most with their communities using social media. We are able to quantify this which — once the polls close — will take a lot of the guessing game out of the effectiveness of social media.

There’s an election prediction map that provides scientific riding-by-riding election predictions based on an assortment of polling data accumulated by Wilfrid Laurier Professor, Barry Kay.  

We’re also doing something fun where users can ‘rate the leaders’ and leave their own video/photo/text feedback on the campaign. And of course, we have all the Global News video reports from our newsrooms across the country.

J-Source: How hard was it to produce the Twitter analyzer? How long did it take?

DS: When we showed up to work the morning after the debate, we had an idea. We had the video from the leaders’ debate, a complete transcript with time codes, and a real-time Twitter analysis provided by our election partner.What if there was a way to watch the video with the transcript while getting minute by minute metrics on Twitter sentiment and popularity?
I had seen something similar on the New York Times Interactive site last year — but they have a team interactive developers working full-time on these types of special projects.  

Needless to say, we had little expectations that we could scramble the resources, expertise, and editorial insights to pull something off in less than 10 hours.I am thrilled to say that we were proven wrong.I have a huge and sincere debt of gratitude to the Shaw Media Digital Team who dropped their schedules and delivered this interactive with energy, passion, and enthusiasm in an almost unbelievably narrow time frame.