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Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Axios Visuals

The tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna became one of the most talked-about news events of the social media era, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: More people have engaged with the story over the past week than nearly every other major news story combined — illustrating that what breaks through in a saturated, splintered media landscape is unexpected, emotional news.

By the numbers: In the week after the Jan. 26 helicopter accident, stories about Kobe and Gianna generated 208 million interactions on social media — more than coronavirus, impeachment, the Super Bowl, the Iowa caucuses and the Grammys combined.

  • It did not generate the most news stories: The roughly 97,000 stories written about Kobe and Gianna this week are only about half the total for coronavirus stories (~174,000).

Be smart: The story had a huge cascading effect, as reactions to the tragedy drove new stories and hashtags.

  • LeBron James' reaction to the news reinvigorated the news cycle, in part because Bryant's last tweet congratulated James for passing him on the all-time scoring list.
  • The hashtag #GirlDad went viral as reactions poured in about the relationship between Kobe and Gianna.

The arms race for reader attention on major platforms has made it harder for all but the most shocking, emotional stories to break through.

  • For example, the Iowa caucuses received relatively minuscule social media interest over this period.

The bottom line: In a news ecosystem that's fragmented by both niche interests and ideology, it's rare for the internet to be so captivated by a single story.

Go deeper

Trump's Republican critics rake in cash

Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger during the first Jan. 6 hearing. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Republican critics of Donald Trump have raked in campaign cash this year as their votes to impeach the former president and investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack have put them in the crosshairs of Trump and his allies.

Why it matters: The 2022 midterms won't just determine which party controls Congress. They're also shaping up to be a test of Trump's continued hold on the GOP. The few remaining Republican dissenters in Washington need to put up big fundraising numbers if they hope to stave off a purge.

The Republicans' mixed mandate message

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republicans have expressed selective rage amid the rise of the Delta variant: They rail against the return of indoor masking but are far less vocal about vaccine requirements.

Why it matters: Masking may help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but the real solution to the pandemic is getting more Americans vaccinated. Increased support for that — including the use of heavier-handed methods like mandates — will only increase its chance of succeeding.

Mitch’s Sinema secret

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging his fellow Republicans to buck up Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — a Democrat, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans view Sinema and her moderate Democratic colleague Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as their last line of defense against sweeping progressive laws — ranging from a $3.5 trillion social welfare bill to potentially irreversible structural changes like eliminating the filibuster and adding new states to the union.