Newspapers and Wikileaks: Case Le Monde

Another branch of analysis offered by the revelation of secret US State Department by Wikileaks organization is the impact on newspapers reputation and visibility. The way the organization has used to reveal the secrets, in alliance with some selected local newspapers with international audience, and not in a fully open way to all newspapers offers us an additional piece of analysis.

We show in this post the impact of this alliance with one of the selected newspapers: the French nrespaper Le Monde. Evidently, we also count with the equivalent information with all other affected newspapers: Der Spiegel, El País, The Guardian and New York Times, even if the latter was not formally in the list of the allied newspapers.

First two graphs show the percentage of the citations that Le Monde has received by other newspapers abroad in Europe that directly referred to any Wikileaks issue.

We show two different measures in time. The first one covers news published within the period between the start of the affaire and 23 December 2010. The second one refers to citations received between mid December 2010 and mid January 2011.

The results show that in our initial measurement, Wikileaks news largely dominated references to Le Monde in media in Europe. It supposed more than two thirds of all news in countries like Turkey, Ukraine, Hungary or Portugal. Prevalence was also massive in Italy or Russia. In the other extreme, German and Spanish newspapers refer the less to Wikileaks when mentionning Le Monde: in both countries Le Monde contributions are subject of wide analysis, but this special behaviour is also probably due to the fact that these two countries counted with local newspapers (Der Spiegel, El País) showing revelations linked to US State Department cables.

Three weeks later, the picture is substantially different. The highest level of prevalence by mid January is just below 30% of all news referring to Le Monde. The impact in many countries is just in the line of 10%. Right now, Wikileaks is still an issue for Le Monde international visibility, but not more a crucial one. Many other subjects attract international journalists when referring to Le Monde. The strong association between Le Monde exclusives on Wikileaks is clearly weakening. In a sense, our results also provide an indication of international influence and prestige of Le Monde journalist contributions, as currently in many countries up to 90% of references to Le Monde are unconnected with Wikileaks, even if it is still an open media affaire.

Next graph refers to Le Monde exposure in Latin American countries. Average rate of Wikileaks prevalence is substantially higher than in European countries in both measurements, about 70% by December and 20-40% in January. We expected to find these results, as non European country media should be less “usual consumer” of Le Monde news, and so Le Monde exposure and visibility is strongly reinforced due to the Wikileaks shared exclusive. Apparently, Venezuela is the country in the region more sensitive to Wikileaks revelations.

The following graph contains a selection of countries from other continents. We find a similar path that observed in Latin American countries in Indonesia, Australia and India. Quite surprisingly to us, we find a quite low level of Wikileaks prevalence in Israel media coverage, among the lowest in all our sample. Israel media behaves apparently like European countries, and reproduces a number of news and informations from Le Monde that are unrelated with Wikielaks affaire.

We present now the behaviour of Le Monde and Wikileaks news as treated by media from the United States, the country subject to the leaks. In order to facilitate the intepretation, we compare US behavior to the average of Europe and Laton America behavior.

Our results clearly suggest that US media follows a specific path in relation with references to Le Monde news. December measure shows a prevalence of Wikileaks news about a 63% level, which does not rank among top values in international comparison. The difference comes by the fact the US is the only country in the world where the prevalence is almost not eroded three weeks later, as it still presents a level of 48% of Wikileaks related references when mentioning Le Monde news. It ranks among top in the world (with Venezuela and some other countries) and, as mentionned, presents the lowest level of decrease between two periods.

How dependent is Le Monde international media exposure from Wikileaks news? We can offer a first answer to this question as we know that the media impact of Wikileaks news has decreased substantially in January in comparision with December peaks, as we showed in a previous post. Taking into account this information, we compare the total number of international mentions received by Le Monde in December 2010 and January 2011, using a value 100 for December figures. We organize information by continents.

According to our results, Le Monde benefited of an increase of some 100% of international citations compared to more normal times (January 2011) in Latin America and Europe. By contrast, in the United Stated, the directly affected country by Wikileaks, the level of local media attention to Le Monde news even increases in January. Of course, as time elapses and media interest on Wikileaks news still decreases, we will obtain a more clear picture of the direct impact of Wikileaks exclusive on Le Monde international exposure.