Breaking news events in the Twittersphere


Twitter’s interaction between media outlets and their communities shook Chilean public opinion on November 14th, 2018 when a Mapuche leader, Camilo Catrillanca (24), was killed by a shot in the back of his neck during a police raid conducted by a special unit of policemen -known as Comando Jungla (in English Jungle Commando)- in an operation carried out in the South of Chile. This led to a social crisis in the country, which manifested itself in a wave of attacks such as burning of buildings, churches and vehicles, as well as barricades in downtown neighborhoods.

Catrillanca’s death became the most dramatic and relevant news event of mid-November and the following days of 2018, not only on the mainstream media, but also on Twitter and other social media platforms. Since Twitter is a rich and powerful source of information and opinions, and is increasingly becoming the place to understand public discourse (Munjal, et al., 2018; Schmidt, 2014; Kwak, et al., 2010; Pak & Paroubek, 2010; Java et al., 2007) this study will seek to unpack, the features and evolution of the media coverage on Catrillanca`s death, as a breaking news event where the whole story is not known yet, analyzing the Twitter communication of a news outlet sample during the first 30 hours after the scoop was released.

Considering the high levels of concentration in the Chilean media and an online news ecosystem lacking diversity in terms of coverage and topics covered, and the apparent influence of the ownership over the editorial policies (Elejalde, et al, 2018; Godoy & Gronemeyer, 2012:13), social media could play an important role in balancing this situation, given that it has been established that social network users are exposed to a greater number of news sources (Conover et al., 2011). Social networks have become a platform with a significant impact on the process of framing and constructing public discourse (Aruguete & Calvo, 2018; Lee et al., 2016).

This project approached the phenomenon of opinion formation and citizen engagement from the comments of consumers of media news via Twitter, especially on the Mapuche issue and conflict in Chile. For this we understood opinion as the private state of any person by which he/she can express their personal emotions, ideas, assessments, judgments and evaluation about a specific topic (Mewari, et al., 2015).

This is an observational, mixed cross-sectional case study (Yin, 2013; Blatter, 2008). First, we provide a selection criterion that define the media outlets to be considered, as well as the unit of analysis, to eventually build the Twitter corpus to study. Second, we provide a descriptive analysis to identify how much attention media outlets paid to the target event. Third, we performed a correlational study in order to identify differences in the level of coverage about the death of Camilo Catrillanca by accounts tweeting intensity and number of followers.