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Covid-19 recedes into the background. Online media monitoring

27.05.2020, 23:28

COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the prime topics in the information space of Ukraine for almost three months now. But the angle of its coverage in the media is changing, as well as the attitude of people to quarantine restrictions and personal safety.

We decided to analyze and compare how mass media were covering the topic of coronavirus at the beginning and end of lockdown. How the accents have changed and what editions stopped covering up this issue.

The number of stories related to the coronavirus pandemic has been almost halved, compared to March. If during the previous monitoring this number was 58.5%, then at the end of May it was  27% of the total number of news items.

The percent of constructive element in pandemic news also decreased: from 15 to 13% of news items. Instead, the level of emotionally colored news and materials with evaluative judgments remained unchanged at 9.5% (during previous monitoring period - 10%).

According to the monitoring findings, the largest number of news items about the pandemic was recorded on the websites Ukraynsky Tyzhden and RBC-Ukraine: 45 and 39% of all materials on these resources, respectively.

The least of stories of the kind were published on Znay.ua: only 11% of all content.

As during the previous monitoring period, the highest percent of constructive news items about COVID-19 was published on The 24th Channel’s website. The site produces infographics with useful data for audience and include it in much of the news items related to the pandemic.

The highest level of materials with emotional coloring and evaluative judgments came out on the site Znay.ua - 70% of materials about the pandemic.

The most of news on COVID-19 covered international news: 28% of the materials concerned the state of the disease abroad. 18% of the materials had statistics on developments in Ukraine - statistics as to the number of infections, cured persons and deaths cases in general and in different regions of Ukraine.

The media actively covered the topic of easing quarantine restrictions and quarantine - 17% of news items. Social issues were raised in 12% of the materials, and these were mostly the news about payments to physicians and distance education. 8% covered scientific researches and were based on expert assessment of the pandemic development.

Constructive news items

The percent of constructive materials in this monitoring period was 13% of all pandemic-related content. The media almost ceased to publish advice on protection measeures, instead an important part of visioning was about easing the quarantine restrictions.

For instance, the following infographics relevant to the population were published on 24th Channel’s website:

In total, 35.5% of pandemic news items on 24th Channel's website, were constructive.

High percent of constructive news items were recorded on the site Ukrayinska Pravda: 25%.

UP’s news often focused on positive trends, for example, reported the number of cured:

COVID-19: record of recoveries in Ukraine, but new cases still prevail;

More than 1.5 million people were cured of coronavirus ;

In Italy, patients with coronavirus in intensive care were reduced by 4.

Many sites have published constructive stories about the drop-offs of used face masks and gloves:

In Kyiv, established collection points for used masks and gloves ,

as well as the story about an interesting study about the way, how the virus is transmitted, by means of fluorescent paint:

Scientists have shown how the virus can be transmitted in a restaurant.

 

Materials with an excessive level of emotionality and evaluative judgments

According to the monitoring, about 9.5% of the total amount of news items about the coronavirus in mass media had an excessive level of emotionality or had evaluative judgments.

An absolute leader in placing too emotional news and news with evaluative judgments become Znay.ua : 70% of the materials were too much emotional or had evaluative judgments.

But, during last monitoring, this online edition was focused on the dangers of the disease and employed emotional epithets, this time the resource scared readers with the economic effects the quarantine will produce:

Lockdown absorbed all the money - what sacrifices do Ukrainians make to buy food;

The retiree didn't sustain lockdown in Mykolaiv and went out a window ;

In Lviv, quarantine can make fare increased.

And the news item about the restrictions on public transport, the headline almost completely distorted its essence. Thus, the title of the news says that " Minibuses and the subway stopped not because of virus, Lyashko gave a direct answer, " but this does not correspond to the words of the chief sanitary doctor of Ukraine Viktor Lyashko, to whom the resource refers. Lyashko only noted that the transport was stopped to restrain travel " without urgent need " and to avoid unnecessary contact with people to protect the population from the rapid spread of the infection.

The site " RBC-Ukraine " also misrepresented information and made a scoop title. The news “Coronavirus in the world - a new wave of pandemic is approaching, iIn fact, only said that a new wave is envisagable, but nothing proves it approaches: " Chief US epidemiologist Anthony Fauci said that second wave of coronavirus is possible. "

Ukrainians did not have time to get used to the idea of ​​new realities of life, dictated by the coronavirus, as the media begin to frighten people with new dangers:

1.4 million could die: new danger threatens the world after the COVID-19 pandemic ;

Coronavirus in the world - the dengue epidemic is raging in Latin America .

Custom materials

According to an IMI survey, about 2% of pandemic-related materials had signs of ordering.

The European Solidarity Party together with its leader Petro Poroshenko undertook to defend doctors in every possible way. Representatives of the political force called not to discredit doctors and provide doctors with health insurance, at least news about it regularly appeared in the media:

Poroshenko spoke out against discrimination of doctors ;

European Solidarity calls for support for amendments to the medical insurance bill .

Yulia Tymoshenko decided not to reinvent a bicycle and, in fact, she also began speaking about necessity of health insurance:

Tymoshenko called on the government to introduce compulsory health insurance .

However, not only well-known politicians sought sightlight on this topic. For example, "Servant of the People" Arseniy Pushkarenko handed over humanitarian aid to the staff of the Kyiv City Clinical Hospital №10. The report on this event was published by Obozrevatel.

Mykola Tomenko keep publishing materials which discredited the activities of Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko: Mykola Tomenko showed PR from dumbkopfs, or How Klitschko's team conducts its own election campaign during quarantine .

Topics raised in the pandemic coverage

The most frequently COVID-19 news covered the international news: 28% of the materials were related to percent of death cases abroad. An important part of this material covered the pandemic in Russia: it was about the number of infections cases, about training for the parade of 9 May, about a fire in a hospital for patients with COVID-19, as well as about the disease of famous Russian personalities, including Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov and members his family.

Putin’s spokesman who contracted COVID-19 made a new statement ;

In Russia, hundreds of soldiers became infected with the coronavirus at parade rehearsals ;

Russia among the top 3 countries by number of Covid-19 cases, but they weakens quarantine ;

In Russia, the number of people infected with the coronavirus exceeded 240,000 ;

The first place is not far off: how Putin contributes to deterioration of situation with COVID-19 in Russia .

18% of the materials contained statistics on the number of cases, cured persons and dead in Ukraine and its regions.

The media actively covered the topic of easing restrictions and quarantine: 17% of materials covered this issue. 

Conclusions

The amount of material about the pandemic has been reduced by half, and despite the fact that this topic remains at the top, it is gradually receding to second place. Thus, on some sites it has almost disappeared, for example on the site Znay.ua  the percent of materials related to the pandemic has decreased to 11% of all content. This may indicate a certain fatigue of society from the constant stress caused by the danger of falling ill.

In fact, this is noticeable in the coverage of the pandemic: 17% of the materials concerned the exit from quarantine. The media has virtually stopped publishing reports on how to protect oneself against the virus, instead actively disseminating information about easing quarantine.

Reducing the coverage of a topic in the media can lead to a false decrease in the relevance of this topic in society. However, both the media and society should remember that the virus has not disappeared and the reluctance to hear about it will not protect the population from the possibility of contracting it.

* Monitoring analysis was conducted on May 11, 12 and 13, 2020 in 17 national online media (ten top-rated and seven media that signed the memorandum of the Media Movement on compliance with professional standards): obozrevatel.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 (M), ukrinform.ua (M), zn. ua (M), censor.net.ua (M), tyzhden.ua (M), interfax.com.ua (M). The total sample was 2,096 materials.

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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