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Measuring bias in international news: a large-scale analysis of news agency coverage of the Ukraine crisis

Watanabe, Kohei (2017) Measuring bias in international news: a large-scale analysis of news agency coverage of the Ukraine crisis. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.6dccptor2ki6

Abstract

I present a new methodological approach to measuring news bias, aiming to settle the disagreement on how to define and measure bias in media and communication studies in this thesis. Unlike earlier research on TV news or newspapers, I choose international news agencies’ coverage of the Ukraine crisis in this study as a case to highlight the strength of the new approach. Utilizing newly-developed geographical news classification and sentiment analysis techniques, I analyse news coverage of the Ukraine crisis by Russia’s official news agency, ITAR-TASS, along with the independent news agency, Interfax, over two years to estimate partisan news bias resulting from stateownership. In this longitudinal content analysis, I focus on the change in sentiment of ITAR-TASS’s news coverage of Ukraine relative to Interfax’s coverage during periods following six key events in the crisis. The analysis shows that the sentiment of ITAR-TASS’s news on Ukraine’s democracy and sovereignty changed significantly after key events, reflecting the desirability of these events to the Russian government. ITAR-TASS’s news coverage became the most negative when the new Ukraine government launched military operations against pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine, claiming that the revolution was instigated by Ukrainian fascists, who threatened the safety of ethnic Russians. This result indicates that the Russian government utilized the news agency for international propaganda to justify its actions. Further, an additional content analysis including western news agencies revealed that Reuters’s news coverage of the Ukraine crisis during this period was strongly correlated with ITAR-TASS, being influenced by the Russian government’s false statements on Ukraine. Reuters news stories were circulated internationally, and published in the most popular news sites in the United States without context. I argue that the publication of the Russian government’s false narratives by American online news sites through Reuters indicates the vulnerability of today’s international news gathering and distribution system, and the rapidly changing relationship between states and corporations in the global news industry. This suggests that western news agencies’ use of temporary correspondents in covering rapidly developing international crises increases the risk of spreading false information globally. In this case, western news agencies are, in effect, supporting international propaganda by non-western states.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Kohei Watanabe
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Methodology
Supervisor: Benoit, Kenneth
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3658

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