Breaking down coverage of the war in Ukraine

By Richard Lee

The long-standing journalism mantra “If it bleeds, it leads” holds true for the media’s coverage of the war in Ukraine, according to data compiled by students in a journalism course at St. Bonaventure University.

The data showed that, during the month of April, stories about military action and atrocities in Ukraine outnumbered reports on diplomatic efforts to end the war, humanitarian items and debate and discussion about the conflict.

The students created a snapshot of the coverage by logging and coding tweets from six major networks – ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and NBC – during April. Each day during the month, one of the students randomly chose a tweet about a war story from each network, logged it into a spreadsheet and coded it by category:

  • Atrocities – the horror of war, death, destruction, devastation;
  • Diplomacy – negotiations, protests, cease fires, NATO decisions;
  • Humanitarian – heroes, survivors, rescue efforts, fundraising and support;
  • Military – battles, troop movements and equipment, strategy, and
  • Rhetoric – political statements, opinion pieces, columns.

At the end of the month, stories in the military and atrocity categories had the highest totals, accounting for 42.8% of the coverage. The final totals were:

  • Military – 39 (21.7%)
  • Atrocities – 38 (21.1%)
  • Rhetoric – 35 (19.4%)
  • Humanitarian – 30 (16.7%)
  • Diplomacy – 24 (13.3%)
  • Other – 14 (7.8%)

The data was compiled by students in a Media and Democracy course in St. Bonaventure’s Jandoli School of Communication during the Spring 2022 semester.

Categories: Jandoli Institute, Media, Research, richleeonline

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