Visual Explorer's Visual Channel Comparer: A Senate COVID-19 Hearing Vs TV News Coverage (CSPAN3/CNN/MSNBC/FOXNEWS)

This past January 11th, a Senate COVID-19 hearing "Addressing New Variants: A Federal Perspective on the COVID-19 Response" received widespread attention for an exchange between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul. With CSPAN3 covering the 4-hour hearing live, the Visual Explorer's new Visual Channel Comparer makes it possible to compare the live hearing and how it was covered on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News minute-by-minute and the distinctively different framings and chyron narration of the three news channels over the course of hearing.

From a technical standpoint, the collage was relatively straightforward to create:

#install the libraries we need...
apt-get -y install imagemagick
apt-get -y install parallel

#download the comparer script...
chmod 755

mkdir /dev/shm/tmp
export MAGICK_TEMPORARY_PATH=/dev/shm/tmp/
time ./ 20220111150000 20220111190000 CSPAN3,CNN,MSNBC,FOXNEWS 300x175 60 && mv MONTAGE.jpg montage-cspancnnmsnbcfox-20220111150000-20220111190000-60s.jpg

The final collage consists of four columns, with CSPAN3's raw hearing footage in the first column, followed by CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in the following three columns. Each row represents one minute of airtime, charting the course of the hearing over the four hours.

The result offers an incredibly unique and powerful look at the minute-by-minute visual narration of this event across the news landscape and how it compares with the actual hearing via CSPAN3. Looking across the three news channels, at which points do they pivot away to different stories and which moments bring them back to the hearing? How do the chyrons subtly (or not-so-subtly) frame events differently through the course of the hearing?

Comparing the CSPAN3 coverage with the excerpts on the three news channels really reinforces the unique role CSPAN's channels play in the information ecosystem of understanding the functioning of government, making it possible for the nation's citizenry to see the full context and reality of government hearings, rather than the meme-worthy out-of-context excerpts that often dominate the media's coverage of those hearings.

View The Full 4-Hour Comparison Collage.