Last Wednesday, Conservative-turned-Independent Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro formally resigned his seat in the House of Commons. The decision came after an investigation into campaign overspending, which was marked by ongoing denial. The previous Friday (October 31st), Del Mastro had been found guilty of violating the elections act, kick-starting a frenzy of Canadian news stories.
As an employee at Gnowit Inc, a company that provides automated news-monitoring, I have access to our platform’s powerful analytical tools. Watching the Dean Del Mastro story unfold, I decided to put these tools to work. Read on to learn how I used Gnowit’s dashboard (pictured above) to gain fresh insights into the ongoing saga of the former Peterborough MP.
1) Days before his conviction, Dean Del Mastro was keeping up appearances in Peterborough.
He may have been on an emotional roller coaster this week – defiant one day and tearful the next – but on October 25th, Del Mastro was all smiles. The soon-to-be-convicted MP hosted a blood donor clinic in his riding as part of “Make a Difference Day”, a volunteering event championed by twelve-year-old not-for-profit founder Faith Dickenson.
Leading up to the event, Del Mastro forged an alliance with Dickenson, joining her in handing out blankets to cancer patients and even making a statement about her work in the House of Commons. The effort resulted in some positive press, including two articles in a Peterborough regional paper – My Kawartha – that made no mention of the MP’s impending court date.
How I found this information: By exploring the “daily buzz” bar graph. The graph allows users to spot trends related to their search term within the previous two-week period. I noticed that 2 articles had been published about Dean Del Mastro on October 27th. This was not a large enough number to signify a major event, but it was worth looking into.
I opened this date and noticed the positive sentiment reflected in the sentiment-analysis pie chart. The terms that popped up in the word cloud – including “faith”, “Crossroads Shelter” (the name of a Peterborough YWCA), and “cuddle” (a word used to describe the blankets handed out to cancer patients) – were also at odds with the more negative articles I’d seen. These analyses piqued my interest, so I opened an article in My Kawartha. I then explored some of the paper’s other coverage of Del Mastro, which suggested an interest in some of the more positive actions he’s taken.
2) Many of his constituents have little sympathy for him.
A look at several articles published in the Peterborough Examiner earlier this week suggest that many residents of Peterborough are far from happy with Del Mastro. If the articles in My Kawartha convey his attempts to give back to the community, many quotes in the Peterborough Examiner seem to represent a dismissal of such attempts. Editorials and reader’s comments in this local source tended to be critical. One article, published last Monday, summed up the negativity this way: “[w]e don’t often look to anonymous online comments for feedback, but in this case, these comments can stand as a reflection of the community response”.
How I found this information: After reading the articles in My Kawartha, I became curious about hometown responses to the Del Mastro scandal. I went to the “Sources” panel on the right hand side of the page and clicked on another local source, the Peterborough Examiner. It was interesting to view the sentiment attached to articles in this publication (largely negative, according to the pie chart), especially in comparison with those in My Kawartha and some national publications.
3) Not everyone dislikes Dean Del Mastro.
His (former) party supported his suspension. Many of his constituents are angry with him. Some journalists are amused by his responses to the media. It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of the Dean Del Mastro story, which have been in the public eye all
week. But according to a Macleans article published last Wednesday, not everyone views the man in the same light. In fact, many MPs from across the political spectrum like and respect him.
In the House of Commons, there was standing applause after his resignation speech. And it wasn’t just (former) fellow party members who appreciated his words – several Liberals rose and applauded as well. One member of the NDP proclaimed his appreciation for Del Mastro’s decision to “take the high road” by resigning.
How I found this information: Macleans is far from an obscure publication. Still, were it not for the sentiment-analysis pie chart, I may never have seen this article. I had, after all, found negative coverage of Del Mastro’s farewell speech elsewhere. My interest was piqued by the positive sentiment – which represented 5% of the articles found. I clicked on the 5% segment of the pie chart and found several articles, one of which was the Macleans article. This presented additional perspectives on the disgraced Peterborough MP.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
When it comes to the news, many of us are all too willing to accept the first (or most prevalent) version of events. Those in public relations or public affairs – as well any individual with an interest in deepening their understanding of current events – can learn a lot from seeking out lost or buried news coverage.