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East Ukrainian media audiences and discussion modes

Patricia Cruz

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The article “Logics of Exclusion: How Ukrainian Audiences Renegotiate Propagandistic Narratives in Times of Conflict” by Olga Pasitselska from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was a discourse and conversational analysis of shared meanings among media audiences in Eastern Ukraine, and their interaction modes.

The context of the study was the pre-invasion Russian-Ukrainian conflict in Eastern Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea and the supported insurgency in Donetsk and Lugansk. The participants were from Dnipro, Dniprovske, and Pavlohrad. 

They formed focus groups for watching news, both Russian and Ukrainian, and having slightly guided conversations on them which were recorded. The news chosen were from TSN-Tyzhden (TSN week), a weekly Ukrainian news program from the nationwide commercial channel 1+1, and Voskresnoje Vremya (Sunday Time) from a Russian state-owned channel Perviy Kanal (First Channel). 

The agendas of the two channels were opposite: Perviy Kanal echoes the Russian state narrative while 1+1 is pro-Western and advocates for freedom from Russian influence.

The analysis focused on: “(a) the content of the constructed meanings, (b) the dynamics of agreement and disagreement during the discussion, and (c) the non-verbal cues that conveyed participants’ reactions toward the conversation’s content and dynamics” – to study the modes of discourse, and the logics of exclusion how these modes are maintained. 

It was revealed that there were three modes of interaction that were defined by communicative goals and logics that drive the selection and exclusion of each mode. The three modes were inquiry, narrative, and avoidance.

In the inquiry mode, the participants maintained an objective distance from the issue. They question, challenge, and argument as keying (as defined by Goffman 1974) the mode to that of critical inquiry. In this mode, the participants seek to establish a valid understanding of the events.

The discursive mechanism of exclusion in this mode involves the participants first establishing competence by, for example, claiming to read more news or by invoking a professional identity. Actual exclusion is performed through a demand of validation. 

All the logics may also fail. The inquiry logic is unsuitable for the expression of personal feelings and moral judgements, and it is also too challenging for disinterested participants. 

The second mode was the narrative one. In it, the participants adopt a collective identity and signal their loyalty to the ingroup. They affirm a certain worldview and impose shared norms upon others. They also become sensitized toward ideological narratives that threaten their collective identity. 

The threat to collective identity was what preceded the shift to this mode of normative discussion. Performances of moral indignation, disappointment, or even disgust often signal the shift. Invoking a sense of duty for the ingroup for example by repeated questioning or challenging imagined dissenters is also a part of the mode. 

The logic works by radicalization of discourse and the exclusion of ambiguous claims. The participants exclude such claims by applying ‘membership categorization’ (Sacks 1992) to clearly mark the boundaries of their group. In addition to ambiguous claims, claims that are promoted by the rival narrative are challenged. 

The narrative logic is maintained in face of such contrasting claims by ‘uncooperative language’. This involves repeated rhetorical questions, stoppers such as “so what?”, unelaborated exclamations (“yes!”, “no!”), and rhetorical upscaling and exaggerations. At this point, the debate becomes heated and emotional and there are multiple turn-taking violations.

When the narrative logic fails, it does so because of two reasons. First, it fails if the participants are unfamiliar with the narrative cues. Second, it fails when conflicting narratives are not accepted as basis of normative evaluation. In that case, there may be a switch to the inquiry mode when participants reject ‘simplification’, or when another narrative mode is invoked (such as virtuous poor people vs corrupt rich people), and there is a switch to the avoidance mode.

Lastly, there was the avoidance mode. In it, the participants detach themselves from the political world while seeking to maintain a sense of competence. The participants are motivated by a need to maintain sanity. The detachment differs from that in the inquiry mode, as here the logic of avoidance inhibits engagement and reasoning.

The keying in this mode is cynical or absurd. There are two variants: in the first, the participants express distrust toward the media, in the second, they signal an inability to deal with the political discussion. They conceive the conflict as ‘political’ and thus closed to their understanding and give up.

The mode works by participants constructing the realm of political information as dirty, corrupt and manipulative. In this mode, there are no ‘good guys’ and no one to feel solidarity with, and the participants adopt a ‘cynical chic’ (Eliasoph 1998) discursive position. 

The avoidance logic maintains itself by a shared political ignorance and powerlessness. The mode can be shattered by strong belief in narrative truth – switch to the narrative mode – or skepticism that dismantles equivocation, generalization, and conspiracist claims, shift to the inquiry mode. 

The study is not only interesting and topical in itself but also offers a new perspective on the deliberative potential of political discussion. Rather than simply assuming that participants have adequate expertise and dedication to democratic conversational norms, the discussion is contingent on the modes presented here.

For limitations of the study, the author notes that the focus groups may not be generalized fully to news audiences. In addition, there may yet be more modes of conversation that were not detected here.

The study  “Logics of Exclusion: How Ukrainian Audiences Renegotiate Propagandistic Narratives in Times of Conflict” by Olga Pasitselska is in Political Communication. (open access).

Picture: Unnamed Road, Ivano-Frankivs’ka oblast, Ukraine by Max Kukurudziak @maxkuk

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Journalism

Article: Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online

Patricia Cruz

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The study “Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online” by Michael Koliska from Georgetown University experimented on news consumers’ trust as brought on by transparency, and further, in the second experiment, explored the reasons for the findings in the first.

Transparency in journalism is defined as opening up the journalistic processes (production, decision making) to outsiders, i.e. making journalism more transparent. Karlsson (2010, 2020) further divides transparency into disclosure, participatory, and ambient transparency. 

Defining trust, on the other hand, in journalism has been tricky, as it has been associated with credibility. Kohring and Matthes (2007) define the four elements of trust: 1. trust in topic selectivity; 2. trust in fact selectivity; 3. trust in accuracy of descriptions, and 4. trust in journalistic assessment. 

This study recruited its participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform. There were a total of 1092 participants. They were presented with a news story about nanoparticles – a topic that was unfamiliar to most and therefore had a low risk of partisan opinions. The article was presented in six different webpages that had differing transparency items in them.

There were 11 different trust items in the first experiment. Based on the results, the hypotheses were rejected. They were H1: A a) production transparency news item and a b) producer transparency news item will be trusted more than a non-transparent item. H2: A full transparency (both production and producer transparency) news item will be trusted more than a) a non-transparent article, b) a production transparency article, and c) a producer transparency article. And H3a: A full transparency news item will be trusted more than a full transparent article that includes biased information about the producer. H3b: A producer transparency news item with neutral personal information will be trusted more than a producer transparency article with biased information.

Nevertheless, the participants agreed that the journalist was trustworthy and that they sometimes trusted the news media. On results, it was speculated that the participants did not recognize the transparency features as cognitive heuristics and did not interact much with the transparency items. 

The second experiment was similar. There were a total of 379 participants, who were not the same as in the first one. They were assigned to read the same article as in the first about nanoparticles, placed again on five different webpages with varying transparency features.  

Further on, the participants were asked to recall the transparency features (such as hyperlinks, author bio, editorial explanations etc.) and to recall specific information from the article and the transparency features. 

The participants recalled items such as the photo (84% of the ones assigned to the webpage with a photo) only 34% could correctly identify the journalist. Similarly, 53% of those who had seen an editorial explanation recalled it, but only 26% could recall a detail from it. Participants also had trouble recalling the individual transparency features they were exposed to.

It was noted that the participants had better recall on items that were part of the actual story than the ‘digitally outsourced’ transparency items. It is possible that this information is not adequately processed or they failed to acknowledge the utility of this information. 

In conclusion, it still remains unclear how the link between transparency and audience’s trust is created. The question remains on whether news consumers recognize transparency features as markers of journalistic quality.

The article “Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online” by Michael Koliska is in Journalism Studies. (open access). 

Picture: scrabble tiles spelling trust by Ronda Dorsey.

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Journalism

News ideology and media storms in France and Israel

Patricia Cruz

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The article “What Happens in the Eye of the Storm? News Ideology During Media Storms” by Doron Shultziner from Hadassah Academic College looked at the nexus of news ideology and media storms using two media storms to analyze the topic: the Yellow Vests Movement (2018) in France and the Occupy Movement (2011) in Israel.

Media storms are defined as events or topics that take up a substantial part of the coverage for a period of time. They typically peak after few weeks in the beginning and then begin to fade. They have been studied widely with various terms being applied to them like “media event” or “media hypes”.

In the past 15 years, there has been an increase in the amount of studies on media ideology. Measured against the hypothetical gold standard of pure objectivity, media bias can be seen when coverage varies from source to another in different weighings and so on, with professional considerations having been overtaken by ideological ones.

The ideology is often seen in framing – as in this case, left-wing media tends to frame the protests positively and right-wing negatively. This was one of the topics in this study.
There were two data sets for the study: the Israeli one and the French one. The Israeli dataset consisted of coverage from Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel Hayom, Maariv, Haaretz, Makor Rishon (a national-religious newspaper), and Yated Neeman (an ultra-religious newspaper). Israel Hayom, Makor Rishon, and Yated Neeman are right-wing, the rest are left wing.

The French dataset consisted of coverage from Le Figaro, Le Monde, Libération, and L’Obs – listed here from right to left ideologically. The articles from both datasets were coded either positive, negative, or neutral based on several criteria.

The results show that media storms are a multi-media phenomenon, affecting a number of newspapers at once. The findings also demonstrate a media bias: if professional considerations were the only thing that mattered, the coverage in left- and right-wing media would have resembled each other.

Instead, there was a trend of negative coverage in right-wing media and positive in left – and what is more, the lines of coverage moved to opposite directions, showing increased polarization. There were differences between the storms: in the Israel case the newspapers chose their sides early and there was no significant move, but in France the lines diverged as the media storm went on.

News ideology also operated through production bias mechanisms, such as sizing of articles or their placement in the newspaper (front page or somewhere else). Due to the differences of the two cases, the hypotheses regarding the decline stage of the storm were hard to assess.

The author notes that the study has implications for future research. It proposes that media storms may be high-risk events that even challenge the ideology and interests of the news organizations. As important, politically charged events become media storms, they may become political storms instead.

The article “What Happens in the Eye of the Storm? News Ideology During Media Storms” by Doron Shultziner is in International Journal of Communication. (free access).

Picture: Storm Approaching by Johannes Plenio @jplenio.
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Covering women’s sport: My sports journalism career highlights

Patricia Cruz

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There has never been a better time to work in women’s sport and for early-career sports reporters, the opportunities are endless.

Here, multimedia sports reporter Milly McEvoy shares how she has covered everything from the Olympics and Paralympics to international women’s cricket and football tournaments, only a year after finishing her sports journalism course.

In June 2021, fresh off finishing my Multimedia Sports Journalism qualification with in Manchester, I made the move down to London to join Sportsbeat as a reporter.

It feels like a lifetime ago, but what has come in between also feels like a blur – it has involved international rugby and football, the British Athletics Championships and domestic cricket and netball (and lots more) in person. 

I have also covered the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, Wimbledon, the Commonwealth Games, remotely and I have had the opportunity to interview sportspeople involved from the grassroots to the top of the game. 

On top of all that, I spent two months covering the Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand. 

As I came to the end of my history degree in 2020, I already knew I wanted to be a sports journalist, but I started thinking about what form that would take. 

I quickly settled on women’s sport. 

I had always kept an eye on women’s sport, and proudly say the first sporting event I ever attended was a Women’s Euros football match in 2005, but my interest in sport came from what was easily available – and even two years ago most women’s sport wasn’t. 

2020 was a slippery slope to full-on obsession including listening to the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup final on 8 March in the early morning on the radio. 

Even across the airwaves, the sound of 86,174 people packing into the MCG showed to me that there was plenty of appetite for women’s sport, people just need to be able to see it – and read about it. 

Fast forward two years and Australia were winning another World Cup, but this time, I was there to see it with my own eyes before heading to the press conference to speak with captain Meg Lanning. 

What had led to that point at around 9pm on 3 April 2022 was two months covering one of the most exciting tournaments cricket has ever seen, and I’m luckily not yet jaded enough to have cursed having to rewrite my match reports as momentum swung wildly in several games. 

I learnt so much from covering that World Cup producing over 120 previews, reports, reaction pieces and features, but my favourite one was the last thing I did in Aotearoa, speaking with a slightly hungover Grace Harris the day after she had won the World Cup. 

Having returned to the UK, I enjoyed a full circle moment in July as I covered the Women’s Euros, and just like the 2020 T20 World Cup, I watched from afar as 87,192 fans cheered the home team to victory. 

Except, this time I was writing the match report for the Lionesses and I couldn’t get into the Wembley press box because there were so many people eager to cover women’s sports. 

It feels like England’s win will be a turning point for women’s sport, one that is long overdue, and I am excited to be part of what is to come and grateful and proud to have been a small part of what has already been. 

You can find out more about our multimedia sports journalism course here.

For a taster of our award-winning journalism training, sign up for one of our free workshops here.

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