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Monitoring compliance with professional standards in online media. 3rd wave of monitoring in 2020

01.10.2020, 12:19

On the eve of the local elections, the average rate of compliance with professional standards of journalism in the national online media fell by 4% . 

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

The monitoring found the highest rate of compliance with professional standards - more than 96% -  in following media: "Dzerkalo Tyzhdnya”, "Ukrainska Pravda", "Ukrainsky Tyzhden", "Hromadske", "Liga", "Bukvy" and Ukrinform.

And two more media with a rate of 94% of stories that had no violations of professional standards took the second place in the IMI rating: NV (Novoe Vremya) and "Censor".

For the third monitoring period in a row, the third position is occupied by the news from Gordon website.

The worst indices of compliance with professional standards are traditionally demonstrated by the Znay website, with only 14% of the news items that did not contain gross violations of the basic standards of professional journalism.  

Balance of opinions and points of view

The biggest decline concerned the balance standard – by as much as 7%: from 97% in the second quarter of 2020 to 90% in the third one. IMI experts attribute this backslide to spike in of significant amount of unmarked political propaganda in mass media, as well as to the economic crisis, as a result of which mass media published more stories with signs of order. At the same time, the experts did not take into account in this monitoring the advertising or propaganda storiess, which were marked in a way that was clear to the audience, albeit in violation of the current legislation on advertising. 

No violations of this standard have been seen on the sites: "Dzerkalo Tyzhdnya", "Ukrainska Pravda", "Ukrainsky Tyzhden", "Bukvy", "Hromadske", "Liga" and "Novoe Vremya".

The most unbalanced news came out on the sites "Znay.ua" and "Obozrevatel".

Credibility

As compared to the previous monitoring period, the standard of credibility has deteriorated by 3.5%. On average, 91% of the news items did not contain violations of that standard.

No violations of this standard have been found on the sites "Ukrainska Pravda", "Liga", "Bukvy" and Ukrinform. Instead, most often that standard has been violated on Znay.ua website.

Separation of facts from comments

During the third quarter of 2020, this standard has been the most often violated by online media. On average, 11.5% of the news items had such kind of violations.

No violations in this category were found on the websites of Hromadske, "Dzerkalo Tyzhdnya", Ukrinform, "Ukrainsky Tyzhden”, "Bukvy", Interfax and RBC-Ukraine. Most violations were seen on the site "Znay.ua". 

Sites that had the highest rates of compliance to professional standards were : "Dzerkalo Tyzhdnya", "Ukrainska Pravda", "Ukrainska Pravda", Hromadske, "Liga", "Bukvy" and Ukrinform

These sites have become leaders at the media market in terms of compliance with professional journalistic standards, as to the IMI monitoring study. 

The vast majority of news on these resources had any violation of professional standards of journalism. Meanwhile, during the third quarter of 2020, even on these sites, we recorded a slight deterioration in compliance with professional standards of journalism - in average by 0.5% compared to the previous monitoring period. Only Ukrayinska Pravda showed growth of 0.5% and on a strong note, joined the frontrunners in compliance with professional standards.

NV and "Censor"

The website of NV has significantly improved its indices of compliance to professional standards of journalism - from 89.5% to 94% of news items written with no violations, according to the IMI monitoring. For the first time, NV took the second place among online media in terms of compliance with professional standards. 6% of its news items had some evaluative judgments, ie the standard of separating facts from comments was violated, another 2% of news had a violation of the credibility standard. The balance standard was respected in 100% of news.

The Censor website also took second place in terms of professional journalism standards. Resource indicators have not changed compared to the previous wave of monitoring. The Censor website most often violated the standard of separating facts from comments - in 4% of news. Credibility and balance were respected in 98% of news.

"Gordon"

The indices of Gordon website have deteriorated by 2%, compared to the previous monitoring period. The average level of compliance with professional standards in the news on this site is 92%. According to IMI experts, the news on it is quite professional and treated with accuracy. But the general picture is spoiled by the presence of unlabeled stories with signs of the order and, obviously, the standpoint of the media owner, who also often appears as a protagonist in the news feed. 

The most violations on the site "Gordon" were recorded in the category of "balance" : 8%. Separation of facts from comments was violated in 6% of news, and credibility was in 2%.

RBC-Ukraine

The RBC-Ukraine website took the fourth place in the ranking with a rate of 88% of materials that had no violation basic standards. 

The site significantly worsened its performance - by 6.5% compared to the previous monitoring period.

The most often the online edition has been violating the balance standard: on average, 10% of the news failed to be well-balanced. The level of violations of the credibility standard was 2%, and IMI experts did not found violations of the standard of separation of facts from comments on the resource.

Interfax-Ukraine and UNIAN

The fifth place was shared by two news agencies’ sites, Interfax-Ukraine and UNIAN. The level of compliance with professional standards of journalism on both sites was of 80%. 

At the same time, according to the study, Interfax-Ukraine worsened its indicators by 8% compared to the previous monitoring period, and the UNIAN website did by 2.5%. Interfax-Ukraine had 100% compliance with the standard of separating facts from comments. However, 16% of the news on this site violated the credibility standard. He is on publishing news either without citing its sources of information, or the agency cited simply the name of the social network without specifying the page where the information from hyperlinks or screenshots were taken from. Thus, such information is difficult or impossible to verify. Also, the site did not put hyperlinks to primary sources of information from other media: currently this is not considered as a pure violation, but this is not very fair from the point of view of ethics regarding the websites whose news were used by the edition.

The standard of separating facts from comments was most often violated by the UNIAN website : in 16% of news items. The standard of balance was violated in 10% of news, and credibility: in 8%.

"Sehodnya" and TSN

Both sites demonstrated compliance to professional journalism standards of 76%. 

At the same time, the TSN website has in fact maintained its performance, compared to the previous monitoring period. But the Sehodnya website has worsened its indices by as much as 10%. Deterioration was seen in the category of separation of facts from comments: the number of news items with signs of sexism, orders and generally evaluative judgments in the news have increased.

The standard of separating facts from comments was violated on both sites the most frequently, compared to other standards. On the Sehodnya website, this violation was recorded in 22% of news, and on TSN was in 20%. 

The 24th Channel

The site of the 24th Channel also significantly worsened its performance in compliance with professional standards of journalism. At the same time, in the context of the general deterioration of almost all media in the monitoring, this site still remained on the seventh position of the rating. Compared to the previous monitoring period, the site's performance fell by 13.5%: from 87.5% of news without violations recorded during the second quarter of 2020 to 74% in the third quarter. 

At the same time, the vast majority of news on the site is quite of high quality, and the editors even make their own infographics to illustrate socially important issues. 

The general image is spoiled by the presence of news with signs of the order and unlabeled stories, similar to native advertising. Such texts should be labelled in accordance with the Law of Ukraine "On Advertising" or marked in at least some way understandable to the audience. 

Most often, the site had violations of the standard of separation of facts from comments: such violations were found in 20% of news. The balance standard was the best respected one: in 90% of news.

"Strana"

According to an IMI study, 30% of news items on the Strana website violated the basic standards of professional journalism. At the same time, the site improved its performance by 2% compared to the previous monitoring period.

Most of the violations on the site concerned the standard of separating facts from comments: 18% of the news contained some evaluative emotional judgments that were not attributed to anyone, based on rumors or assumptions, and so on. 14% of the news on the site were unbalanced, and another 8% contained violations of the standard of crediibility.

“Oboozrevatel”

34% of news with some violations to basic standards were recorded on the Obozrevatel website, which is 3% more than in the previous monitoring period.

The standard of balance was violated the most often on the site: on average 28% of news failed to be well-balanced. 18% of the news on the "Obozrevatel" had violations of the standard of separation of facts from comments.

IMI experts pay attention to a significant number of stories with signs of ordering on this site, without any markings and even signed by an edition’s "journalist". 

"Znay.ua"

The worst indicators for the third consecutive monitoring period have been seen on the site "Znay", which consistently kept the level of compliance with professional standards at 14%. By the way, those 14% of news that did not had any violation were found out to be not Znay's own stories, but reprints from other national online media. As the number of violations of professional journalism standards on this resource was 86%, IMI experts cannot classify this site as a professional journalistic resource and do not recommend it as a source of information. 

Conclusions:

  1. During the pre-election period, the level of compliance with the balance standard significantly decreased. This is due to the large number of ordered materials.
  2. Almost all monitored sites deteriorated its level of compliance with professional standards.
  3. The increase in the number of tabloid news on the sites leads to an increase in evaluative judgments and, consequently, a deterioration in compliance with the standard of separation of facts from comments.

The monitoring analysis was conducted in September 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 desire to be subject of the monitoring): 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 ), 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 project, 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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