Newspapers and Location-specific Coverage

The Daily Star and The New Age are two English Newspapers that are considered two of the top sources of information in Bangladesh among all the other English Newspapers. The Daily Star has been there for quite some time and New Age is relatively young, although I have been told by a few that New Age has been catching up in the race. While thinking about ways to visualize data from newspapers, I decided to compare the efficiency of these two newspapers in terms of news coverage.

Now, I’m sure news coverage can be interpreted/defined in many ways, but here I refer to the geographic aspect. Although most of the news in such “national” newspapers revolve around the incidents in Dhaka and Chittagong (the two main divisions (also cities) of Bangladesh), occasionally we notice news from areas of less interest/importance. In a big country like the USA, the notion of a “national” newspaper is ridiculous, but in a small country like Bangladesh every Dhaka (the capital) based newspaper claims to provide  glimpse of all major incidents around the country.

Every newspaper usually has correspondents in distant regions, usually all the major cities. My main goal was to carry out controlled experiments to see how many news has been covered from each district and metropolitan cities including and excluding Dhaka and Chittagong over a fixed period of time. Hopefully that would provide a way to compare the two newspapers’ commitment to reach out all the districts and cities of Bangladesh.

The Experiments

DS has an online archive that starts from 2002. However, NA only has a news archive starting from 2011. So I decided to run all the experiments from 01-01-2011 to 02-28-2012 for both the newspapers, a period of 423 days overall.


Figure 1. Barcharts for (Left) All metropolitan cities, (Right) all districts of Bangladesh. The left panel in the charts show the number of news covered by DS and likewise, the right panels show the figures for NA. (click to view the names of the districts)

Oh my! Just look at the number of news covered for Dhaka! It clearly outweighs the numbers for all other cities (or districts) in both the newspapers. Surprisingly, NA does not give a peak for Chittagong like DS does, one possible reason is its use of ‘ctg’ as an abbreviation of Chittagong in many places. My program only parses for the word “Chittagong” in all the news.

DS has a lot more news per city/district over the 423 days period compared to NA.

Figure 2. The same barchart for districts, but this time, Dhaka and Chittagong districts are excluded to magnify the relative coverage for all the districts. Click on the image to view the districts.

Excluding Dhaka and Chittagong, we see some efforts on both newspapers’ sides to cover more news in places of higher business interests, such as Rajshahi, Sylhet, Bogra, Khulna etc. However, DS has a clear win over NA here; the length of their bars are too visible.


All of these data and figures would look much better if we could see a geographic representation of these comparisons. Following are some vis. that represent the above data in a slightly different but more intuitive way. Since DA clearly dominates NA in terms of number of news per district, I wanted to create a visualization of the magnitude of their differences on a map of Bangladesh.

Click and zoom in to view clearer pictures.


Figure 3. Bangladesh’s map and a textual representation of the magnitude of the difference in the number of news covered per district. The transparency and color of the texts are varied according to the magnitude.

For these visualizations, I have taken Dhaka and Chittagong out of the calculations. In the above visualization, for each district, the number of news reported by NA was subtracted from the number of news reported by DS. After obtaining these difference values for the 62 districts (not 64, since I excluded Dhaka and Chittagong), I scaled them to [0, 1]. The transparency and color of the texts in the map are set accordingly – more opaque and reddish means more difference between the newspapers for a particular district.

A stark difference between the two newspapers exist in some districts, e.g. Rajshahi, Dinarjpur, Rangpur and Satkhira. DS covers more news in those areas compared to NA. In many other areas, the differences are less pronounced, hence, those areas are more transparent.

The following visualization is a similar one, only this time bubbles are embedded with texts to emphasize the areas of interest.


Figure 4. Circles of radius, transparency and color map proportional to the difference between the news coverage of Daily Star and New Age.

Areas of No Coverage

Daily Star outperformed New Age so far it seems. However, this was just a relative measurement. Both newspapers were found to ignore some areas of Bangladesh in my data. Now, it could be the flaw of data in some cases, as described in the Methods section. Assuming no flaws, the following districts were ignored (not even a single mention over the 423 days period) by both DS and NA:

Gopalganj, Lakshmipur,  Narsingdi.

Some of the municipal cities that were ignored by DS were:

Bhanga, Chenger, Damudiya, Galachipa, Goalunda, Jibannagar, Kalapara, Kuliar Char, Maheshpur, Mehendiganj, Mirkadim, Muktagacha, Nandail, Adamdighi, Shailkupa, Ullapara, Swarupkathi, Nilphamari, etc.

Some of the municipal cities ignored by NA (in addition to the above) were:

Abhaynagar, Akhaura, Alamdanga, Bakarganj, Bhola, Bhuapur, Birampur, Bochanganj, Chakaria, Char Fasson, Charghat, Daganbhuiyan, Damurhuda, Durgapur, Kaunia, Madhabpur, Muksudpur, Nabinagar, Sitakunda, Swarupkathi and quite a few more.

I would like to come back to this data when I get some time and make some more vis. to show the stats for no-coverage vividly. Not all the cities were mentioned above, the lists were actually bigger for both newspapers.


Parsing the online news archives was described in this post.

GIS Integration: The map polygons data for Bangladesh can be downloaded from Geocommons or the World Bank website. The polygon description file is in the format .shp that Mathematica can read since its 7th version. I read in the .shp file to create a blank map polygon set at first. The latitudes and longitudes data for each district were found using the Yahoo Map API, not the Google Map API (that is more reliable) simply because of all the protocol hassles it presents to each query sent to the service.

Integrating and visualizing the polygon set and the latt. and long. data were straightforward using the geometry and graphics primitives of Mathematica.

What’s Next?

There’s so much that can actually be done with such data to compare newspapers. I have only presented some info. vis., but some statistical analysis done on such data may provide much more insights into the performance and commitment of newspapers. I have not searched to see if there has been any previous research done in this direction, the next goal (on this idea) for me will be to do some literature search, if I ever decide to come back to this data to do something more in the future! 🙂

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