Police brutality has no place in any society.  As a media analyst it’s a topic you don’t want to delve into, let alone report on.   But news coverage and follow-on social media discussions are unfortunately not immune to the uglier side of our criminal justice system.

This month, the headlining topic of Police brutality is up +4 points or 5 percent at 83.  Unfortunately the ongoing storyline managed to drive enough media attention to hit a 4-year high, predominantly on the explosive situation in Baltimore and the massive outcry and media coverage that ensued across the country, and across every media segment.

As a media watchdog with an analytic lens, it would depress me if these types of stories didn’t get this level of media coverage.  Topics and trends above 80 points signal strong media prominence.  Interestingly, social media traction is low, but moving in a positive or growth direction (social media segment ratings are up +9 points at 65 for the police brutality topic).  Media momentum is moving in a alarmingly negative direction, currently off -23% this month after an 8-month media build.

Social Media Coverage and Traction

Citizens capturing police abuse through smartphones sparked a surge in media coverage, propelling the storyline above 80 points.  The topic is currently ranked #32 in our U.S. Politics Sector, up +9 positions over the prior month and up +51 positions over the prior year.

The media segment-level breakouts are even more revealing on the police brutality storyline.  Broadcast coverage is near ubiquitous at 100 points!  Business and U.S. Newspapers are at 97+ points.  Even the International Newspaper segment, representing the top daily newspapers outside North America,  reached a 97 media rating.

Segment-Level Media Ratings

(see online dashboards for full segment-level media breakouts)

As the Baltimore stories ebb, a parallel storyline is developing around the police brutality topic, a storyline that is gaining rare bi-partisan support in congress.  Mass incarceration and the U.S. prison population is continuing to gain media traction as documented police abuse events continue to hit mainstream news outlets.  The U.S. prison population topic (mass incarceration) is currently up +2 points or 3 percent at a 61 media rating.

There are a couple of noticeable observations about the long-term media trend on the prison population topic.  The topic was on a strong media trajectory throughout 2013 but suddenly lost all its momentum in the first-half of 2014.    Momentum and media rating numbers are re-building, but the original 2013 media attention failed to continue into 2014, keeping the topic under 62 points for the prior 12-month period.  It’s likely the media plateau over the prior 12-month period is due to a focus on police brutality versus incarceration, both elements of a broader storyline on the U.S. criminal justice system