Or what if you’re interested in the opinions of a group that isn’t defined by the electoral boundaries — or one where there just isn’t good polling available to aggregate?

These are the sorts of questions where journalism turns to pundit representatives. Want to know what “hockey moms” think? Sarah Palin gets called upon to represent them. How about the Occupy movement? Call Michael Moore. The Tea Party? Bring in Dick Armey. Gun owners? Alert Alex Jones. This sort of representative punditry comes with obvious, distorting flaws: Alex Jones doesn’t represent all gun owners and Michael Moore doesn’t represent everyone on the activist left, but the workflows of contemporary journalism let both stand in for what a larger group is thinking or feeling. And if your group doesn’t have an obvious mouthpiece, someone already in a cable news producer’s contacts? You might just get excluded from the narrative altogether.

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings: The Measured Rise of Sentiment Analysis in Journalism, Nieman Lab.

An interesting piece by Sam Petulla on the pros and cons of sentiment analysis. What it is:

Sentiment analysis aims to analyze what a percentage of the population “feels” about something, often by measuring the sentiments embedded in social media posts or by asking a community directly to share its feelings, thoughts, or opinions in a machine-readable way. 

Bottom line: Petulla argues that, when used appropriately (read: clearly state its limitations and don’t call it a poll), sentiment analysis can help alleviate the above quoted issue by getting more voices into a news conversation.

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