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Comparative analysis of the media coverage of Hurricane Sandy

and of twelve “silent disasters”

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

January 29th, 2013

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Comparative analysis of the media coverage of Hurricane Sandy
and of twelve “silent disasters”

RED CROSS / EU OFFICE
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Chemin des Crêts, 17 | 1209 Petit Saconnex | Geneva | Switzerland
Gina Guinta
ECHO-RCRC Communications Campaign Manager
Public Communications
Tel +41 (0)22 730 4323 | Mob. +41 (0)79 217 3381 | Fax +41 (0)22 733 0395
Email: gina.guinta@ifrc.org

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Table of contents
Methodology .........................................................................................................5
1. Volume comparisons ........................................................................................6 
1.1 Highlights .................................................................................................................... 6 
1.2 Proportion of the combined media coverage for each selected disaster ............ 7 
1.3 Handout ....................................................................................................................... 8

2. Top international news stories of 2012 ...........................................................10
3. Top environmental stories and natural disasters.............................................11
4. Twitter .............................................................................................................12 
4.1 Volume comparisons ............................................................................................... 11 
4.2 Hurricane Sandy in the USA.................................................................................... 13 

4.2.1 Wordcloud ........................................................................................................................................13 
4.2.2 Country distribution ..........................................................................................................................13 
4.2.3 Top sources by number of tweets* ...................................................................................................14 
4.2.4 Some of the most retweeted ............................................................................................................15 

4.3 Hurricane Sandy in the Carribean .......................................................................... 16 

4.3.1 Wordcloud ........................................................................................................................................16 
4.3.2 Country distribution ..........................................................................................................................16 
4.3.3 Top sources by number of tweets* ...................................................................................................17 
4.3.4 Some of the most retweeted ............................................................................................................18 

4.4 Sahel and Burkina Faso food insecurity................................................................ 19 

4.4.1 Wordcloud ........................................................................................................................................19 
4.4.2 Country distribution ..........................................................................................................................19 
4.4.3 Top sources by number of tweets* ...................................................................................................20 
4.4.4 Some of the most retweeted ............................................................................................................21 

4.5 Uganda epidemics.................................................................................................... 22 

4.5.1 Wordcloud ........................................................................................................................................22 
4.5.2 Country distribution ..........................................................................................................................22 
4.5.3 Top sources by number of tweets* ...................................................................................................23 
4.5.4 Some of the most retweeted ............................................................................................................24 

4.6 Bangladesh tropical storm ...................................................................................... 25 

4.6.1 Wordcloud ........................................................................................................................................25 
4.6.2 Country distribution ..........................................................................................................................25 
4.6.3 Top sources by number of tweets* ...................................................................................................26 
4.6.4 Some of the most retweeted ............................................................................................................27 

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4.7 Cambodia floods and food insecurity .................................................................... 28 

4.7.1 Wordcloud ........................................................................................................................................28 
4.7.2 Country distribution ..........................................................................................................................28 
4.7.3 Top sources by number of tweets* ...................................................................................................29 
4.7.4 Some of the most retweeted ............................................................................................................30 

4.8 Southern Africa and Lesotho food insecurity ....................................................... 31 

4.8.1 Wordcloud ........................................................................................................................................31 
4.8.2 Country distribution ..........................................................................................................................31 
4.8.3 Top sources by number of tweets* ...................................................................................................32 
4.8.4 Some of the most retweeted ............................................................................................................33 

4.9 Mongolia extreme cold............................................................................................. 34 

4.9.1 Wordcloud ........................................................................................................................................34 
4.9.2 Country distribution ..........................................................................................................................34 
4.9.3 Top sources by number of tweets* ...................................................................................................35 
4.9.4 Some of the most retweeted ............................................................................................................36 

4.10 Burundi returnees from Tanzania......................................................................... 37 

4.10.1 Wordcloud ......................................................................................................................................37 
4.10.2 Country distribution ........................................................................................................................37 
4.10.3 Top sources by number of tweets* .................................................................................................38 
4.10.4 Some of the most retweeted ..........................................................................................................39 

4.11 Ecuador floods ....................................................................................................... 40 

4.11.1 Wordcloud ......................................................................................................................................40 
4.11.2 Country distribution ........................................................................................................................40 
4.11.3 Top sources by number of tweets* .................................................................................................41 
4.11.4 Some of the most retweeted ..........................................................................................................42 

4.12 Tajikistan earthquake............................................................................................. 43 

4.12.1 Wordcloud ......................................................................................................................................43 
4.12.2 Country distribution ........................................................................................................................43 
4.12.3 Top sources by number of tweets* .................................................................................................44 
4.12.4 Some of the most retweeted ..........................................................................................................45 

4.13 Vietnam hand, foot and mouth disease ............................................................... 46 

4.13.1 Wordcloud ......................................................................................................................................46 
4.13.2 Country distribution ........................................................................................................................46 
4.13.3 Top sources by number of tweets* .................................................................................................47 
4.13.4 Some of the most retweeted ..........................................................................................................48 

4.14 Dengue Outbreak in El Salvador........................................................................... 49 

4.14.1 Wordcloud ......................................................................................................................................49 
4.14.2 Country distribution ........................................................................................................................49 
4.14.3 Top sources by number of tweets* .................................................................................................50 
4.14.4 Some of the most retweeted ..........................................................................................................51 

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Methodology
The goal of this analysis is to compare the volume of media coverage regarding the passage of
Hurricane Sandy in the United States with that regarding 12 “silent disasters” selected by the Red
Cross/Red Crescent, both in traditional media (print, news websites and news blogs) and on
Twitter.
These “silent disasters” are:
• Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean
• Sahel and Burkina Faso food insecurity
• Uganda epidemics
• Bangladesh tropical storm
• Cambodia floods and food insecurity
• Southern Africa and Lesotho food insecurity
• Mongolia extreme cold
• Burundi returnees from Tanzania
• Ecuador floods
• Tajikistan earthquake
• Vietnam hand, foot and mouth disease
• Dengue outbreak in El Salvador
For traditional media, we have tallied the number of mentions of Hurricane Sandy in the USA and
of each of these “silent disasters” in print articles, on news websites and on news blogs from 200
countries. For Twitter, we have aggregated results using social media monitoring tools.
For both parts of the analysis, we have established a total number of items for all disasters,
including Hurricane Sandy in the USA. We then calculated the proportion of the media coverage
or the conversations on Twitter for each of the disasters.
Both compilations have been made using Boolean searches with keywords related to the
analyzed events in English, French and Spanish.
Since tweets include at most 140 characters (or 20 to 25 words), Boolean searches on Twitter are
not as efficient as searches performed in traditional media. The proportion of relevant items not
found by Boolean queries is thus most likely greater on Twitter than with traditional platforms.
Still, our conclusion is that the tweets collected are representative of the volume of conversation
regarding either Hurricane Sandy or the “silent disasters”.
The Twitter section of this report includes word clouds, distribution by country, a selection of the
most active accounts and a sample of popular retweets.
About 700,000 news items as well as 7 million tweets have been collected for the completion of
this analysis.
News articles were collected for the period of January 22nd, 2012 to January 22nd, 2013. Tweets
were collected from January 28th, 2012, to January 28th, 2013. To avoid redundancies, we used
shorter time frames for some of the disasters. When in doubt, the one-year period was
maintained.

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1. Volume comparisons
1.1 Highlights

The passage of Hurricane Sandy in the United States received 89.40% of
the combined media coverage (print, news websites and blogs) of all the
selected natural disasters in 200 countries.

Altogether, the 12 “silent disasters”, including the passage of Hurricane
Sandy in the Caribbean, received 10.60 % of the combined media
coverage.

When excluding Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean from the selected 12
“silent disasters”, the remaining 11 received only 3.83% of the combined
coverage of these events.

The passage of Hurricane Sandy in the USA received:
• nine times the media coverage of all 12 “silent disasters” combined;
• thirteen times the media coverage of Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean;
• twenty-three times the media coverage of the remaining “silent
disasters” (without Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean).

The passage of Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean received almost twice
the media coverage (6.76%) of all other remaining disasters combined
(3.83%). That is likely due to the fact that the American media directed a
lot of attention towards the approaching hurricane as it passed through the
Caribbean.

We have been very conservative in compiling the number of articles
mentioning the passage of Hurricane Sandy in the USA. If another country
affected by Sandy was mentioned, the article was excluded, to ensure all
remaining articles were about the passage of the Superstorm in the USA.

The coverage of Sandy in the USA was likely much higher, and our
analysis a conservative measure of how, in the media at least, it dwarfed
all the other disasters selected by the Red Cross/Red Crescent.

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1.2 Proportion of the combined media coverage for each selected disaster

Proportion of the combined media coverage  
for each selected disaster 
Rank 









10 
11 
12 
13 
 

Event 
Hurricane Sandy in the USA 
Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean 
Sahel and Burkina Faso food insecurity 
Uganda epidemics (cholera, Marburg, ebola) 
Bangladesh tropical storm 
Cambodia floods and food insecurity 
Southern Africa and Lesotho food insecurity 
Mongolia extreme cold 
Burundi returnees from Tanzania 
Ecuador floods 
Tajikistan earthquake 
Vietnam hand, foot and mouth disease 
Dengue outbreak in El Salvador 
Total 

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89.40% 
6.76% 
1.29% 
0.73% 
0.49% 
0.34% 
0.31% 
0.24% 
0.12% 
0.10% 
0.09% 
0.07% 
0.05% 
100.00% 

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1.3 Handout

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2. Top international news stories of 2012

Top international news stories of 2012
Rank
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
9
9
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
21
23
24
25

Event
Barack Obama reelected as President of the United States
Hurricane Sandy
London Olympic Games
Global warming / climate change
Economic crisis in the Euro zone
Shooting in a primary school in Connecticut
Political crisis in Syria
War in Afghanistan
Economic, social and political crisis in Greece
Democratic National Convention in Charlotte
Apple introduces the iPhone 5
United States fiscal cliff
Republican National Convention in Tampa
Iran’s nuclear program
Tensions and crisis between Israel and Palestine
Economic crisis and austerity measures in Spain
Elections in Russia: Vladimir Putin is elected for a third term
Super Bowl XLVI
Political issues in Iraq
Tour de France
Grammy Awards and nominations
Political issues in Egypt
Tropical storm Isaac
Presidential election in France: Hollande defeats Sarkozy
Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee

MPS
3.61%
2.59%
2.39%
2.38%
2.08%
1.99%
1.93%
1.90%
1.72%
1.72%
1.72%
1.70%
1.60%
1.47%
1.25%
1.15%
1.13%
0.90%
0.86%
0.84%
0.71%
0.71%
0.64%
0.64%
0.63%

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Euro 2012

0.63%

27

Baseball World Series

0.62%

28

Attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the killing of the U.S. ambassador

0.59%

32

Russia: Pussy Riot band members condemned to imprisonment

0.52%

36

Muslim protests against an anti-Islam movie

0.48%

*Media Prominence Score. Based on the media coverage in the media of 160 countries.

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3. Top environmental stories and natural disasters
Top environmental stories and natural disasters
in the news in 2012
Rank

Event

1

Hurricane Sandy

2

Global warming / Climate change

3

Tropical storm Isaac

4

The crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant was a man-made disaster, states a
Japanese parliamentary report

5

Rio + 20 summit

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4. Twitter
4.1 Volume comparisons

The passage of Hurricane Sandy in the United States received fifteen
times the coverage on Twitter of all 12 “silent disasters” combined.

The passage of Hurricane Sandy in the USA was the object of 94.06% of
the combined total of conversations on Twitter for all the selected natural
disasters.

Altogether, the “silent disasters”, including the passage of Hurricane
Sandy in the Caribbean, were the object of 5.94 % of the combined total of
conversations.

When excluding Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean from the silent
disasters, the remaining 11 “silent disasters” received only 1.94% of the
combined coverage of all selected disasters.

Proportion of the combined total of conversations on 
Twitter for each selected disaster 
Rank 









10 
11 
12 
13 
 

Event 
Hurricane Sandy in the USA 
Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean 
Uganda epidemics 
Sahel and Burkina Faso food insecurity 
Dengue outbreak in El Salvador 
Tajikistan earthquake 
Bangladesh tropical storm 
Southern Africa and Lesotho food insecurity 
Ecuador floods 
Cambodia floods and food insecurity 
Burundi returnees from Tanzania 
Mongolia extreme cold 
Vietnam hand, foot and mouth disease 
Total 

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94.06% 
4.00% 
0.89% 
0.88% 
0.05% 
0.05% 
0.03% 
0.02% 
0.01% 
0.01% 
0.01% 
0.01% 
0.00% 
100.00%

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4.2 Hurricane Sandy in the USA
4.2.1 Word Cloud

4.2.2 Distribution by country

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4.2.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.2.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.3 Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean
4.3.1 Word Cloud

4.3.2 Distribution by country

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4.3.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.3.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.4 Sahel and Burkina Faso food insecurity
4.4.1 Word cloud

4.4.2 Distribution by country

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4.4.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.4.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.5 Uganda epidemics
4.5.1 Word cloud

4.5.2 Distribution by country

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4.5.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.5.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.6 Bangladesh tropical storm
4.6.1 Word cloud

4.6.2 Distribution by country

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4.6.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.6.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.7 Cambodia floods and food insecurity
4.7.1 Word cloud

4.7.2 Distribution by country

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4.7.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.7.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.8 Southern Africa and Lesotho food insecurity
4.8.1 Word cloud

4.8.2 Distribution by country

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4.8.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.8.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.9 Mongolia extreme cold
4.9.1 Word cloud

4.9.2 Distribution by country

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4.9.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.9.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.10 Burundi returnees from Tanzania
4.10.1 Word cloud

4.10.2 Distribution by country

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4.10.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.10.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.11 Ecuador floods
4.11.1 Word cloud

4.11.2 Distribution by country

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4.11.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.11.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.12 Tajikistan earthquake
4.12.1 Word cloud

4.12.2 Distribution by country

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4.12.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.12.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.13 Vietnam hand, foot and mouth disease
4.13.1 Word cloud

4.13.2 Distribution by country

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4.13.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.13.4 Some of the most retweeted

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4.14 Dengue Outbreak in El Salvador
4.14.1 Word cloud

4.14.2 Distribution by country

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4.14.3 Top sources by number of tweets*
*The chart below represents the number of tweets taken from a sample of all the tweets on the
related subject, and not the total number of tweets. It gives an indication of which Twitter
accounts have been most active among authoritative Twitter influencers. Low-authority Twitter
influencers have not been taken into account.

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4.14.4 Some of the most retweeted

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