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Compliance with professional standards in online media. 2nd wave of monitoring in 2020

02.07.2020, 21:12

Six online media shared the top position in the list of the best media in terms of compliance with professional standards: Dzerkalo Tyzhdnya, Ukrayinsky Tyzhden, Liga, Ukrinform, Bukvy and Suspilne.

Such are the results of an analysis of 19 online media conducted by the NGO "Institute of Mass Information" with the support of "Internews Network" * in April 2020.

98.5% of the news intem on the above resources did not violated journalism standards.

Ukrainian Pravda took second place in terms of compliance with professional standards: 97.5% of the materials on this resource had any violations. The RBC-Ukraine website took the third position for the second time in a row, and this time, the Censor and Gordon websites approached its score.

At the same time, the worst sites in terms of compliance with professional standards were Strana (only 68% of news items with no violations) and Znay.ua, where only 16% of news were written with no violation (ie the vast majority of materials on this portal has nothing to do with professional journalism) . 

According to IMI research, the most often Ukrainian online media have been violating the professional journalistic standard of separating facts from comments. On average, this standard was met in 91% of materials. 

The second in the list of most often violated standards was violation of credibility (respected in 94.5% of the total number of materials). The standard that the online editions respected the best was the balance: 97% of the total number of materials were OK with it. 

The standard of separating facts from comments was most often violated by following sites: Znay.ua (75% of the total number of materials), Strana (25%), Obozrevatel (18%). No violations of the standard of separation of facts from comments were recorded on the Ukrinform and UT websites. 

Credibility standard

The biggest number of violations of this standard was found on Obozrevatel website (12.5% ​​of the total number of news items), Segodnya and Strana websites had number of violations of that standard up to 12%. The highest level of credibility is seen on the sites Ukrinform, Bukvy and the site of Suspilne.

The level of compliance with the credibility standard increased by 2% compared to the previous wave of monitoring.

Standard of balance of opinions / points of view 

The average level of balance was 97%, which is 2.5% higher than during the previous wave of monitoring. The most unbalanced news were revealed on Strana website. No news with violation of the balance standard were found on the sites Ukrayinsky Tyzhden, Dzerkalo Tyzhdnya, Liga and website of public broadcaster Suspilne. This standard is most frequently violated in the news which had attributes of being ordered, because such kind of news is one-sided.

  1. Ukrayinsky Tyzhden, Ukrinform, Liga, Dzerkalo Tyzhdnya, Bukvy, Suspilne

During the second wave of monitoring, six sites shared the first place in terms of compliance with professional standards. 98.5%. of news items on these sites were adhering to the professional standards.

On these front-runners resources, journalists and editors are extremely careful about the sources of information and do not allow themselves to make evaluative judgments in news articles.

Separately, the IMI monitoring covered two new sites : Bukvy and the site of Suspilne, public broadcaster. Both sites took first place in the ranking of compliance with professional standards.

  1. Ukrayinska Pravda

According to the study, the percent of news made in compliance with professional standards on the UP website was 97.5%. The vast majority of news on the resource had no violations of professional journalism standards. Thus, the standard of balance and separation of facts from comments on the site was respected in 99% of news. The level of credibility was even higher : 99.5%.

However, the experts found dubious its news " The cause of the coronavirus outbreak in Dnipropetrovsk region was a meeting of Baptists ." Later the edition retracted: "In the morning of April 8, Oliynyk apologized for the inaccuracy, and the Dnipropetrovsk regional council denied reports of Baptist’s role in the spread of the coronavirus because there was no Baptist community in Pershotravensk. The source in regional council said the outbreak happened among adeptes of the Christian Church "New Generation." However, the headline remained inaccurate and with a negative connotation bordering to hate speech. 

We draw the media's attention to the fact that mentioning specific religious communities in a negative context can lead to incidents of discrimination due to religion.

  1. RBC-Ukraine

This resource occupies the third position of the rating for the second consecutive monitoring wave.

The percent of news published in compliance with professional standards on the resource was 94.5%.

Compared to the previous monitoring period, the resource improved its figures by 2.5%.

The RBC-Ukraine website also made a mistake with the news about Baptists: " Coronavirus in Ukraine : outbreak in Pershotravensk was a Baptists meeting."

Also on the site we  revealed the story with signs of an order in favor of LLC "Regional Gas Company", owned by Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash: " Personnel of GDN Operators are supplied with means of protection and guaranteed wages . The material is complementary and unbalanced.

  1. Censor and Gordon

According to the study, 94% of the news on the sites Censor and Gordon had no violations of professional standards.

Censor has been violating the most often the balance standard: in 5% of materials. Resource indicators have not changed compared to the previous wave of monitoring.

The site had some inaccurate news on lockdown easing: this information was not later confirmed ("Lockdown cancellation: partial opening of stores from April 14 and resumption of the education from mid-May - the media announced a plan to ease the lockdon ").

Gordon improved its results by 4% compared to the previous wave of monitoring.

The site had violations of standards of credibility and balance in 3% of news, and the standard of separation of facts from comments was infringed in 2% of news.

For example, the news " Moskal: Energy system may cease to exist in Ukraine because of Gerus' corruption " is unbalanced, as the journalist did not present Gerus’s standpoint, whom he blamed for corruption.

The resource also published news about the lockdown end, which was not confirmed: " At first, shops will be opened, then - shopping malls and schools. Mass media learned the plan of lockdown easing in Ukraine, " as well as news about the Baptists meeting, which allegedly led to the outbreak coronavirus disease: " In Dnepropetrovsk region, outbreak of coronavirus. According to authorities, the center of infection was a gathering of Baptists ."

  1. Novoe Vremya

During the second monitoring wave in 2020, the Novoe Vremya website took the fifth position with a rate of 89.5% of materials written with no violations.

During the first wave of monitoring, the site was also in the fifth position, but since then NV has improved its results (previously there were 86% of materials without violations).

6% of the materials on the resource had evaluative judgments, ie the standard of separating facts from comments was violated, another 3% of news violated the standards of balance and credibility.

For example, in the article " Ivermectin - Australian Salvation? Australian physicians may have discovered a drug that can eradicate coronavirus within 48 hours " veterinary drug "Invermectin" from headline was presented as almost a salvation from coronavirus disease. However, the news itself said that this drug has been tested so far only on tissue culture. Thus, at present there is no evidence of how it will behave and whether it will be efficasious against COVID-19 in human body. Such materials can provoke self-medication, which is a danger.

The site goes on publishing a lot of show business news and entertaining content with evaluative judgments: " Hurry to love. The network has conquered with a video of Mandy Moore performing the lyrical ballad Only Hope from the cult melodrama of the 2000s ."

  1. Interfax-Ukraine

With a rate of 88% of stories with no violations, the site Interfax-Ukraine took sixth place in the ranking.

Compared to the previous wave of monitoring, the site improved its performance by 2%.

The Interfax-Ukraine website has shown quite good results in complying with the standard of separating facts from comments, but continues to publish news and not to cite its sources of information, or the source of information which is simply the name of the social network without specifying the page where it came from, without hyperlinks or screenshots. Therefore, such information is difficult or impossible to verify. Also, the site does not put hyperlinks to primary sources of information from other media: this is not currently considered a violation, but it is not very ethical as to the sites whose materials they use for its publication.

According to the survey, the standard of credibility was broken in 8.5% of materials, the standard of separating facts from comments was done in 8% of news. The balance standard was violated the least on the resource - in 7% of materials.

  1. 24 Kanal

The performance of this site, compared to the previous wave of monitoring, has improved significantly, by a record 7.5%.

In total, 87.5% of the materials on the 24 Kanal website had not violated any professional standard. In 7.5% of the news on this resource, the source of information was not indicated, for example, in the news about Boris Johnson, only once they mentioned a generalized source "British mass media", but many facts were related and no sources were mentioned.  

Another 6% of the news had evaluative judgments.

  1. Segodnya

The site has not changed its results, as compared to the previous monitoring period: 86% of the materials on the resource did not violate professional standards. The standard of credibility was most often violated on the site - 12% of the materials, another 5% of the materials had evaluative judgments. There were almost no violations of the balance standard: only 1% of news on the site were unbalanced.

For example, in the headlines " Trump announced plans to explore the moon – Russia got hysterical ", " Alina Shelestyuk made an erotic dance in lockdown. Video " had some evaluative judgments.

In headline, the author " Nadiya Babkina infected by coronavirus stays in a coma – her husband's reaction "  said in the affirmative manner that the singer had coronavirus, but in the news itself he spoke of suspicion, which was not later confirmed.

And the news " Charles Lieber created coronavirus – truth or lie about a scientist from the United States " had some unconfirmed information about the new "creator" of the virus whom mass media spoke about. It goes on to say that the scientist was actually arrested in the United States for a completely different reason, namely because he hid his cooperation with China while receiving funding from the American treasury. Accordingly, there was no confirmed information about the scientist's involvement in the creation of the virus.

  1. UNIAN

The UNIAN website improved its indices, compared to the previous monitoring period. According to the results of the second wave of monitoring in 2020, its indices are 82.5% of materials that had not violated professional standards (for comparison: 78% was the percent of the site during the previous monitoring period).

According to the results of the research, the standard of credibility was most often violated on this site - in 10% of materials.

For example, the news " Vodafone opens free access to the All-Ukrainian online school " there is failed to cite any source of information. This material also had signs of the order.

There is no identified source of information in the news " Coronavirus latency period of - how coronavirus is different from this one influenza."

3% of news on the site violated the standard of separating facts from comments and another 2% - the standard of balance.

  1. TSN

With an index of 77% of news written without violating professional standards, TSN website got to 10th position in the ranking.

This resource violated the most the standard of separation of facts from comments: 20%.

The tabloid news had the most evaluative judgments, such as " Alessandra Ambrosio flaunted a sexy figure - photo ", " Vladimir Ostapchuk 's ex-wife showed her body - photo ", " Rita Ora showed a eye-catching look ".

The resource also had some stories with signs of order, in which the standards of both balance and credibility were violated (" Home treatment of colds: the most dangerous ways and a reasonable alternative "). In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the site advertises drugs that, according to TSN, should help to fight coronavirus disease. However, there is no reference to clinical trials on the effectiveness of their treatment in the news, as well as there is no warning about the dangers of self-medication.

  1. Obozrevatel

According to IMI monitoring, 31% of the news on the Obozrevatel website had violations of professional standards. The standard of separating facts from comments was most often violated - in 18% of news items. The site manipulates the headlines, and sometimes they do not correspond to the essence of the news. 

For example, evaluative judgments are contained in the news " Klitschko harshly spoke to athletes after incidents at the Hydropark - video ", "Italians rebelled against Putin's doctors: authorities had to give explanations ."

9% of materials on the resource violated the balance standard. Thus, the news " The country's eaders should immediately start countering  crisis in energy sector - MP " was no standpoints of those to whom they appealed, nor this one of the relevant committee of the Verkhovna Rada.

However, compared to the previous monitoring period, the site improved its results by as much as 7%.

  1. Strana

According to the IMI monitoring, violations of professional standards were recorded on 32% of the materials on Strana website. The balance standard was most often violated here - in 9% of materials.

For example, in one article "Anna Krasnova, what is known about posh girl who was caught drunk driving in Kiev " violated three professional standards: credibility, separation of facts from comments and balance. 

The news " The President's Office published a photo of Yermak sitting to the right of Zelensky at a meeting on the coronavirus " had some evaluative judgments from Strana’s own Telegram channel, such as "faces in this photo are so sad" or “would-be, at the meeting they heard some very alarming news about coronavirus. But it is silenced for now. "

In the news, “Talks on the disengagement of forces in Donbass failed - the representative of Ukraine” is talking about a "Ukrainian party of war", and that in late March, the Ukrainian side rejected all insights from the Trilateral Contact Group on the disengagement of troops and other issues. Thus, not only the work on the establishment of the Advisory Council, the issue that caused rebellion from the Ukrainian war party, was curtailed, but also almost all other activities in Minsk were dropped. ”

  1. Znay.ua

For the third wave of monitoring in a row, the worst indices of compliance with journalistic standards are demonstrated by the Znay.ua website. On average, only 16% of the materials on the site had no violations of professional standards, these were mostly reposts from other Ukrainian media.

75% of the materials on the resource had evaluative judgments. Employees of the site generously season their materials with them and try to produce dubious scoops. The news had explicit exaggerations in " Pogroms have started in Russia - hungry and angry people are robbing shops ", when the incident of the robbery was recorded in only one shop.

Magicians and paranormalists are considered here as authoritative experts. The pandemic COVID-19 is commented not by doctors and virologists, but by participants "Battle of paranormalists" " Magician of the Battle of the psychics predicted disease outbreak and the crisis in Ukraine" .

*****

Almost all of the studied media have shown an increase in professional standards since the beginning of quarantine. For some sites, it is indeed high, for example, the site of 24 Kanal showed an increase of 7.5%, as compared with the previous wave of research. The reason for this may be both the economic crisis, which contributed to the reduction of jeansa, and the media's understanding of their responsibility in the context of hard period of the pandemic for society.

However, some media continue to run for scoops and disseminate unverified information, the source of which were mainly social networks.

* The monitoring analysis was conducted in April 2020 in 19 national online media (ten top-rated, seven media that signed a memorandum of the Media Movement for compliance with professional standards, as well as two sites that expressed wish to be on the list of media to be monitored): oboz. com, segodnya.ua, 24tv.ua, tsn.ua, strana.ua, pravda.com.ua, znaj.ua rbc.ua, unian.com, gordonua.com, nv.ua (M), liga.net М), ukrinform.ua (М), zn.ua (М), censor.net.ua (М), tyzhden.ua (М), interfax.com.ua (М), suspilne.media , bykvu.com . The total sample was 1,900 materials - 100 materials taken in a row from each site that was covered by the monitoring. 

The research methodology can be found here.

This study was made possible by the support of the American people through the USAID Media Program in Ukraine, implemented by the international organization Internews Network. The contents are the sole responsibility of the Institute for Mass Information and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the US Government or the Internews Network.

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