Using "sentiment analysis" to get insight into an unfolding story: Jacob Zuma Spear saga

women

I had some fun this week with the raging debate over Brett Murray’s artwork which showed President Jacob Zuma with his private bits a-dangling. It provided the perfect opportunity to have a go using something called “sentiment analysis” to get some insight into an unfolding story.

Right! What the heck is “sentiment analysis” and how on earth could this possibly be used in journalism?

The LA Times Sentimeter

The back-of-envelope description of “sentiment analysis” or “opinion analysis” is simply machine-recognition of the emotional intent behind a piece of text and it seeks to classify it as either “positive” or “negative” or, in some cases, as neutral. For a fuller explanation see this wikipedia entry.

As this story began to heat up last week, I spent the weekend tinkering with some code to see if it would be possible to mine Twitter in realtime and collect as many of these tweets as possible to do some analysis on it. I then recalled something that I had read relating to sentiment analysis and how it could be used with Python, the computer language I am familiar with, alongside the Natural Langage Toolkit library.

Read moreUsing "sentiment analysis" to get insight into an unfolding story: Jacob Zuma Spear saga

Using “sentiment analysis” to get insight into an unfolding story: Jacob Zuma Spear saga

women

I had some fun this week with the raging debate over Brett Murray’s artwork which showed President Jacob Zuma with his private bits a-dangling. It provided the perfect opportunity to have a go using something called “sentiment analysis” to get some insight into an unfolding story.

Right! What the heck is “sentiment analysis” and how on earth could this possibly be used in journalism?

The LA Times Sentimeter

The back-of-envelope description of “sentiment analysis” or “opinion analysis” is simply machine-recognition of the emotional intent behind a piece of text and it seeks to classify it as either “positive” or “negative” or, in some cases, as neutral. For a fuller explanation see this wikipedia entry.

As this story began to heat up last week, I spent the weekend tinkering with some code to see if it would be possible to mine Twitter in realtime and collect as many of these tweets as possible to do some analysis on it. I then recalled something that I had read relating to sentiment analysis and how it could be used with Python, the computer language I am familiar with, alongside the Natural Langage Toolkit library.

Read moreUsing “sentiment analysis” to get insight into an unfolding story: Jacob Zuma Spear saga

Lessons in using PAIA to get information from the state

So, this morning Dr Mafu Rakometsi, the CEO of the Umalusi Council, stood up at a press conference in Pretoria to reveal some answers to some pressing questions about the 2010 matric results and how the results in various subjects were changed.

For myself and team mates in the Media24 Investigations team and colleagues at the Sunday titles, Rapport and City Press, this marked the end of a fascinating chapter in which we had brought the power of South Africa’s access to information laws to bear on this body.

Dr Rakometsi told everyone gathered there that the exam quality watchdog had taken this unprecedented step because of the intense interest in the “standardisation” process and after extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders and other interested parties.

But the truth behind this decison is rather more textured, as I will explain. The story behind it, I believe, holds an important lesson for South African journalists and, in fact, for any citizen wanting to ensure that those in authority do not withold from us information to which we are entitled.

Read moreLessons in using PAIA to get information from the state