Iris Robinson – How the online media are reporting the story

by Stephen O'Leary on 12/01/10

One name dominating the headlines in Ireland this week has been Iris Robinson. The wife of Peter Robinson (who temporarily stepped aside as First Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday), she has been at the center of a political and personal scandal.

Details of Robinson’s extramarital affair with a 19 year old in 2008 first appeared on Politics.ie, the Irish Politics website, last week and since then, allegations of financial impropriety involving Robinson and her husband have emerged. It was announced on the 9th January that she would stand down from elected office.

In a story that has developed over the past 10 days, the coverage hasn’t been confined to Ireland. As the pie chart below illustrates, this has become an international news item.

A country by country breakdown of the coverage Iris Robinson has generated in 2010

Since January 1st 2010, the story has gathered momentum – the following line chart shows how the coverage has increased, day by day.

A day by day breakdown of the coverage Iris Robinson hsa received in 2010
A day by day breakdown of the coverage Iris Robinson hsa received in 2010

Given her name, various stories have appeared comparing the scandal to 1967 film, The Graduate. However, aside from the affair, there are allegations that Mrs Robinson solicited £50,000 from businessmen so that Kirk McCambley, (the young man with whom she had an affair), could open a restaurant – without disclosing the fact to authorities. It is this side of the story that has had serious political implications, but where has the online media focused its attention?

This piechart gives us an idea. The red section on the left represents all articles in which “Iris Robinson” and “affair” both appeared. The green section of the pie represents all articles in which “Iris Robonson” and “developer” both appeared. It is clear that for the majority of the online press, the affair has dominated the coverage.

Comparison of Iris Robinson coverage between The Affair and The Developers
Comparison of Iris Robinson coverage between The Affair and The Developers

All of the figures above are based on analysis of over 115,000 online news producing sources across the globe. When these sources are broken down, based on the number of articles mentioning Iris Robinson, a matrix of the leading titles can be created. The top source, with over 60 articles in the last 10 days is The Belfast Telegraph. A variety of other Irish and UK titles make up the list, but one in particular stands out – Slugger O’Toole. The popular blog on Northern Ireland politics and culture has published 15 articles and ranks ahead of more mainstream titles including The Times and Channel 4 News.

Iris Robinson Publication Matrix 2010
Iris Robinson Publication Matrix 2010

Finally, while the political implications for both Peter and Iris Robinson are significant, Mr McCambley has also been at the center of a media frenzy. His café, The Lock Keepers Inn, has seen queues out the door of locals and media looking for a glimpse of the young man. He claims he doesn’t mind being photographed or talking to the media according to this report in The Belfast Telegraph

And based on the statistics – it’s hardly surprising that he is happy with the publicity – the two graphs below illustrate the coverage The Lock Keepers Inn has enjoyed in the online media over the past week. Perhaps most interesting is the geographical breakdown – with more than 80% of the mentions appearing in US based publications.

Lock Keepers Inn Global Breakdown 2010
Lock Keepers Inn Global Breakdown 2010
Lock Keepers Inn Daily Breakdown 2010
Lock Keepers Inn Daily Breakdown 2010

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