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News framing of Yandex-presented Russian news in three countries

Patricia Cruz

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The study “Is all Russian news the same? Framing in Russian news media generated by the Yandex news algorithm for the United States, Estonia, and Russia.” by Heidi Erbsen and Siim Põldre from University of Tartu was a study on news framing comparing how Yandex news algorithm displayed Russian news in United States, Estonia, and Russia. 

Research on Russian media influence abroad has shown that it is not misinformation that is the threat, but the subtle biases and suggestive tones in the framing of those news. Thus, ‘myth-buster- or anti-fake news tactics are unlikely to counter it.

Previous studies, while being about news algorithms, have not looked at how the same algorithm, in this case the Russian-owned Yandex, operates across borders. This study aims at analyzing the differences in headlines across countries, and thus the operation of the algorithm.

Shanto Iyengar has looked previously on agenda-setting. According to Iyengar, agenda-setting is not a straightforward process on the ability of the news outlet to frame an issue. He further found two larger framing strategies: “thematic framing” and “episodic framing”.

In thematic framing, the issue is presented in news as being related to general trends or public policy, and ongoing in nature, and are more impersonal. In contrast, episodic framing embodies personal experience and particular instances. Thematic framing is related to societal responsibility, and episodic framing to individual responsibility. 

A total of 800 headlines were collected from a total of 162 outlets. There were roughly the same amount of headlines from Russia, United States and Estonia. They were systematically collected from 19 November 2018 to 23 March 2019 using separate browsers with set location preferences. 

The first finding was that in many cases, the Yandex headline different vastly from the headline in the actual text after clicking the link. This was particularly the case with Russian headlines, as in ⅘ of them there was a ‘clickbait’ headline that was different from the actual one. In US, this was roughly ⅗ , while in Estonia it was only ⅕.

When it comes to issues, Russian headlines focused on Ukraine and oil. Both Russia and United States also had plenty of international relations. Social welfare and local elections took priority in Estonia. United States appeared to be somewhat ‘in between’ Russia and Estonia in having local elections and public safety like Estonia. Estonia was unique in the focus of social welfare and Russia in Ukraine (note: the headlines were collected before the full-scale war that started in 2022).

Framing strategies differed across the countries. It is expected that thematic framing and episodic framing occurs at roughly same ratio, that is 50-50. In Russia, episodic framing was slightly less common at 42.2%, with 57.8% thematic. In US, thematic strategies were even more prevalent at 63.6%–36.4%. Estonia, on the other hand, had more episodic framing, 56.6%–43.4%.

Looking at how different issues were framed, in all countries interest stories were overwhelmingly framed using the episodic lens (87.5–91%), as were stories of public safety (69–86%). International relations stories were framed more thematically, but in Estonia, even this was close to 50-50.

The authors ponder on the meaning of the findings in light of Iyengar’s suggestion that episodic framing suggests an individual or unique issue, and thematic social and normalized issue. They suggest that the Estonian tendence to use the episodic lens is used as a tool to depoliticize or isolate issues as single occurrences.

In contrast, Ukraine and International relations were particularly presented using the thematic lens in US and Russia, reflecting the fact that these countries are major World powers and the issues are presented as systemic or as parts of a larger discourse. 

The findings also open the door for more questions and subsequent research, as there were also cases where similar issues used a different frame in different countries. What is the reason for this, what is there about the issues that prompts a different frame? 

In conclusion, the authors state that despite the common framing across issues, the particularities in episodic and thematic framing show that the Russian information space remains distinct across the borders.  

The article “Is all Russian news the same? Framing in Russian news media generated by the Yandex news algorithm for the United States, Estonia, and Russia.” by Heidi Erbsen and Siim Põldre is in Journalism. (free abstract).

Picture: Untitled by Artem Beliaikin @belart84

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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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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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