Visualizing media representation of the world

I uploaded an image visualizing foreign news coverage early this year, but I found that the the image is very difficult to interpret, because both large positive and negative values are important in SVD. Large positive values can be results of intense media attention, but what large negative values mean?

A solution to this problem is use of non-negative matrix factorization (NMF). As the name of the algorithm suggests, matrices decomposed by NMF is restricted to be all positive, so much easier to interpret. I used this technique to to visualize media representation of the world the Guardian, the BBC, and The Irish Times in 2012-2016. I first created a large matrix from co-occurrences of countries in news stories, and I reduced the dimension of the secondary countries (columns) to five.

Rows of the matrices are sorted in order of the raw frequency counts. Australia (AU), China (CN), Japan (JP), India (IN) are highlighted, because I was interested in how the UK was represented by the media in relation to non-EU countries in this analysis.


I can identify columns that can be labeled ‘home-centric, ‘European’, ‘the Middle East’ and ‘Asia-Pacific’ clusters based on the prominent countries. In the Guardian, the home-centric cluster is G1 because Britain is the single most important country as the very dark color of the cell shows. The European cluster is G3, because Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy and Ireland have dark cells in the column. The Middle East cluster is G2, in which we find dark cells for Syria (SY), Iran (IR), Afghanistan (AF) and Israel (IL). The Asia-Pacific cluster is G5, where China (CN), Australia (AU), Japan (JP), India (IN) and United States (US) and Canada (CA) are prominent. In the BBC, the home-centric cluster is G1, and the European cluster is G4, where France, Greece, Spain and Germany are found, although the United States are also found. The Middle East cluster is G2, which includes Syria, Iraq, Egypt (EG), and Israel (IL). The Asia-Pacific cluster is G3, where China, the United States, Australia, India and Japan are found. In the Irish newspaper, the home-centric cluster is G1, the European cluster is G4, the Middle East cluster is G3, and the Asia-Pacific cluster is G5.

More detail is available in Britain in the world: Visual analysis of international relations in the British and the Irish media before the referendum presented in the 2016 Political Studies Association Conference.

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