Comparing media coverage of July conflicts

After experimenting with GDELT data for a single day, I was eager to see whether I could compare media coverage of conflicts over a longer span of time. Arbitrarily, I picked the month of July, which saw the escalation of Israel's Operation Protective Edge, the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine, ISIS's expansion in Iraq, and lots of other horrible news.

I used a slightly tweaked version of the Ruby script described in the last post to add up the total article count for "violent" events related to eight national conflicts: Israel, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Central African Republic, Honduras, and South Sudan. I keep putting the word "violent" in scare quotes because I suspect my methodology rests on very shaky ground, even ignoring GDELT's various flaws. Let me explain.

As I mentioned in July, GDELT uses algorithms to extract distinct "events" from news reports and then codes each event according to the CAMEO system. I, more or less arbitrarily, designated events with codes fifteen through twenty as "violent" events. Here's what those codes mean, officially.

Number Category E.g.
15 EXHIBIT MILITARY POSTURE "Mobilize or increase armed forces"
16 REDUCE RELATIONS "Expel or withdraw peacekeepers"
17 COERCE "Destroy property"
18 ASSAULT "Use as human shield"
19 FIGHT "Occupy territory"
20 ENGAGE IN UNCONVENTIONAL MASS VIOLENCE "Engage in mass expulsion"

There is lots of room for debate here, obviously. Does code thirteen, "threaten," as in "threaten mass violence," count as a violent event? Probably, but I wanted to impose some restrictions in order to measure coverage of conflicts rather than the entire national life of countries.

My script ran through the GDELT data for every day in July 2014, pulled out every "violent" event related to the countries in question, and added up the number of articles recorded for those events. (Using the numarticles value for each GDELT entry.)


There is a huge spike in Ukraine coverage on the day MH17 was shot down, but the trend drops off quickly, although coverage remained generally higher in the second half of the month than in the first. Meanwhile, Syria coverage remains steady -- and low compared to Israel and Iraq -- despite some of the bloodiest fighting of the civil war taking place in the second half of the month. South Sudan, CAR, and Honduras barely register.

Here are the complete data.

Date for July 2014 Israel/Palestine Ukraine Afghanistan Iraq Syria Central African Republic Honduras South Sudan
1 21317 6534 2545 13905 4799 364 253 653
2 22796 6605 8465 11406 4594 50 291 426
3 20711 5227 2747 13469 6266 60 418 314
4 17620 4944 1602 13981 6093 201 283 176
5 18477 4838 4075 7734 4449 44 45 81
6 24913 4676 2422 5543 3671 66 76 39
7 33499 5450 4417 9238 2776 533 343 222
8 47449 5832 8752 5915 2706 870 908 737
9 41946 5671 4131 7070 5717 218 269 672
10 30702 4283 3373 7704 4234 338 292 1524
11 57899 10730 3815 9835 4662 232 489 1161
12 44456 8689 3785 13148 1616 175 158 260
13 51832 6883 4660 11866 1972 39 290 182
14 50876 6872 4378 9254 4646 49 891 267
15 46672 8752 8628 7617 2612 104 672 455
16 41543 7084 5243 4636 3046 90 1852 207
17 54452 49509 12292 4854 3494 123 646 343
18 64173 44604 3543 6336 5847 30 618 218
19 52143 16107 2822 9007 5890 459 845 204
20 65187 12492 1201 4312 3114 38 231 929
21 68041 15060 3234 4364 3951 50 2014 1527
22 49469 16125 5110 5521 5144 74 1259 886
23 66784 22325 4326 6114 2775 444 433 207
24 55708 13606 5444 8062 2640 33 893 248
25 59276 11947 5932 4250 7303 156 961 519
26 41972 13450 1868 4247 7468 16 291 327
27 38787 20223 4355 2711 4496 20 340 154
28 48208 14158 1136 3870 5713 329 469 200
29 48354 13307 5009 3149 2083 425 225 168
30 50888 9978 2148 3865 4099 60 238 166
31 45797 5787 1354 4020 2903 46 176 146
MEAN 44578.93548 12314.45161 4284.258065 7322.677419 4218.677419 185.0322581 553.8387097 439.2903226
TOTAL 1381947 381748 132812 227003 130779 5736 17169 13618