There’s a lot of media out there. How to keep up with the messages our politicians, papers and pundits are trying to sell us? In my research, I’ve started using a tool called Leximancer, which automates a lot of the hard graft of content analysis. Unlike word maps such as Wordle, Leximancer doesn’t just count the frequency of words, it derives themes and concepts from large chunks of text, showing their prevalence, their importance, and the relationships between them. The pretty pictures are great, but they also serve as a way into interpretative analysis, and you can use them to drill down further into the text. The estimable Graham Young uses Leximancer on qualitative polling; I’ve started using it on political speeches, interviews and media coverage. You can get more detail about how the package works elsewhere, but here I’ll try to show you an example, from my own research, of how it can be useful. One question that hasn’t been given enough consideration post-election is why the ALP drew a blank in the four tropical seats in Queensland after holding three (Leichhardt, Dawson and notionally Herbert) before August 21. Part of an answer might come from seeing what the papers in the major centres in those electorates were reporting on during the campaign. To dig out the big themes, I went to Factiva and dragged out all election-related coverage -- between Gillard’s ascension on the June 23 and election day -- from the Cairns Post (Leichhardt), the Townsville Bulletin (Herbert), and the Mackay Daily Mercury (Dawson). (I also included letters to the editor, not least because they make up a fair proportion of the content in regional papers). I cranked the large swathes of text through Leximancer (those interested in the settings I used can find them here -- but I really didn’t stray far from the defaults). The big circles are the overarching themes -- major concepts dealt with in the coverage fall within them. They’re heat-mapped -- the most central concepts fall towards the "warmer" end of the spectrum. Here's The Townsville Bulletin:

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