Your News, You Decide: April 25th 2014: Today – BBC, Al Jazeera, CBC News, The New York Times

I am extremely concerned about the accuracy and validity of the news we read, see and hear on a daily basis.  The media is constantly manipulated for political or financial gain.  Some of the news is focused on largely irrelevant events; a good example is the Oscar Pistorius case.  Certainly there is no impact on international diplomacy, wars, hunger or democracy.  The whole case is nothing more than a theatrical display, other than the families directly impacted in the case the story should be close to, if not already on the last page, perhaps by the entertainment section?  But alas, it is not..  When I read the news, I want to read something relevant, something that is impacting the lives of people domestically and internationally.  However, it is not only a case of irrelevant stories, there are other issues with the news such as the problem of omission.  We saw it with the Occupy Wall Street movement, where everyone knew it was happening because of social media, yet no news outlets, particularly American, aired the story until several days into the protest. What were the reasons behind not reporting?  Omission and manipulation of the news and media is constantly happening around us whether we know it or not.

And so, because of tactics like omission, exaggeration, and manipulation I have decided to grab the same story off of several news sites and do a quick comparison to see the differences in the stories and let you, the reader, decide for yourself what the news really is. Today, I’ve taken a screenshot (at 1pm PST) of the top headline from each of these sites: BBC News (UK), Al Jazeera (Qatar), CBC News (Canada) and the New York Times (USA). I will summarize and comment on the closest related (hopefully same) story from each site and then analyze the differences to conclude.

BBC News sources:
The main sources used in the article but not limited to: the Government, Foreign, Interior and Defence ministries of Ukraine; the Government and Foreign Ministry of Russia; pro-Russian leaders in Ukraine ; the Government, Foreign and Defence ministries of Germany; The United States government.

Written by:
BBC News unnamed

Summary and Notes:
The article begins with information from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry regarding the abduction of electoral observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe by pro-Russian separatists in near the town of Sloviansk in the Ukraine.  It is noted that the abducted may actually be members of an unarmed EU military observation team headed by Germany.  The “west” is upset with current buildup of troops and Russian military exercises along the Ukrainian border and as a result, their credit status was downgraded by the credit rating agency Stanley and Poor.  Ukraine is claiming that Russia is trying to start world war three and purposely creating unrest in the EU.

The BBC seems to be very careful with this news coverage.  They leave virtually no comment or analyses of their own.  Almost all of the information is pieced together from the governments’ and ministries involved in the conflict.

Al Jazeera News sources:
The main sources used in the article but not limited to:  Al Jazeera reporter Hoda Abdel-Hamid; Reuters;  AFP; the Government and Interior ministry of Ukraine; pro-Russian leaders in Ukraine; The OSCE.

Written by:
Al Jazeera News unnamed

Summary and Notes:
This article also notes that according the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, armed separatists seized a bus of international observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe close to the town of Slovyansk.  The separatists claim that there is a spy among the group which is the reason for the groups detainment.  They were seized when a problem arose at a checkpoint.  A Ukrainian ministry is currently negotiating their release.  Slovyansk a town of 130,000 has been under separatist control for 2 weeks.  Ukraine alleges that Russia is instigating a third world war.  The Ukrainian military is launching operations to try to regain control of Slovyansk.  And, a Ukrainian helicopter has exploded on the tarmac in the town of Kramatorsk, the source of the explosion has not been confirmed, although officials in Kiev says it was shot by a rocket propelled grenade.

Al Jazeera is cautious in their approach to the story.  However, Al Jazeera does use its own reporter as a reference. Also, at least two other news agencies credited in the article, Reuters and the AFP.  This article leaves our rhetoric and editorial comments. However the amount of sources used could be increased and some of the sources are not mentioned and noted at the bottom of the article as, “Al Jazeera and agencies”.

CBC News sources:
The main sources used in the article but not limited to: Reuters; The Associated Press; the Government, Defence and Interior Ministries of Ukraine; the Foreign Ministry of Russia; the Foreign Ministry of Sweden.

Written by:
CBC News unnamed

Summary and Notes:
The article also notes that according the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, armed separatists seized a bus of international observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe close to the town of Slovyansk.  Sweden is calling for the immediate release of one of the lone Swedish  OSCE inspector among the seized.   The United States is threatening further sanctions, with both Britain and Germany agreeing with them.  The tensions have resulted in the credit rating downgrade of Russia by Stanley and Poor  Russia denies any involvement in separatist activities and has called for armed Russian separatists to lay down their arms.  Ukraine alleges that Russia is instigating a third world war.  There have been clashes and in all parts of the country, and both sides say that any illegal groups and or occupations must end immediately.

The article appears to have some commenting in it.  Not all facts are quoted leaving the origin of some of the material open to question.  Roughly half of the article appears to be paraphrased sources but with no credit or quotes credited.  CBC notes “Thomson Reuters” at the very beginning and at the very ending of the article, however upon searching Reuters Canada and Reuters US  I was unable to find this exact article anywhere other than on CBC’s website.  (I’m not exactly certain as to how the relationship between Reuters and CBC works, so if you know more about this then please message me or leave a comment as I would like to know more about it.)

The New York Times news sources:
The main sources used in the article but not limited to: Reporters for The New York Times (listed below); The Interfax News Agency; the Government, Defence and Interior Ministries of Ukraine;  The government of Russia; The government of the United States of America; The OSCE.

Written by:
The New York Times;  Andrew Higgins (Kiev), C. J. Chivers (Kramatorsk), Alan Cowell (London), and additional contribution by David M. Herszenhorn (Moscow).

Summary and Notes:
The article notes the the Ukraine is ready to block out Russian allies in the town of Solvyansk.  It is reported that military observers from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe were detained by pro Russian separatists.  Although the OSCE claims that it was a separate branch working under the OSCE umbrella that was detained.  Ukraine are labelling any separatist groups as terrorist organizations and are doing everything possible to cut off supplies and blockading their progress.  Soldiers are accumulating on both sides of the border near Solvyansk.  Russia denies having any involvement with the groups operating in the Ukraine.  The United States is threatening sanctions against Russia upon intelligence claiming that Russia is in fact aiding armed pro-Russian separatist groups.  The US claims it has confirmed photographs of Russian military operators working in Ukraine, while Ukraine claims US blackmail and rhetoric.

The New York times article is definitely written with more of a flow and a story feel with emphasis being put on their first hand accounts from their reporters on the ground.  The Times uses a mix of government sources, another agency and primarily from their own reporters, four in fact!  I think is odd that the headline did not mention the abduction, and that the story was so far down the page when other agencies were headlining it.  The validity of the article needs to take into account the reliability and bias, if any, of the reporters on the ground.

COMPARISON COMMENTS ON YOUR NEWS:

I mentioned cautious in a couple of my notes above, when I says cautious I’m referring to the news agencies distancing themselves from sources that are not governments related.

First off I would like to note that BBC, Al Jazeera and CBC news all started their articles almost exactly the same, with comments from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.  All the three agencies also had the incident headlining their front pages as the top story when I observed all the sites at 1pm PST.  The New York Times did not have this as their top story and does not mention the incident in their headline.  The first story on Ukraine was 6 stories down from the first headline.  The detention of the observers is first mentioned the third paragraph and the headline to the article is “Ukraine Says It Will ‘Blockade’ Pro-Russian Militants”.  I find it quite interesting that the American news station has taken quite a different approach to the story, how and where it is headlined in their news.  And most importantly how it is written, which I will address below.

Overall, I feel that the BBC used the most resources in general, but stayed strictly with government quotes, they don’t appear to have any reporters on the ground for first hand accounts.  But I feel that they are trying to stay neutral on the matter even though it’s an agency that falls within the “West”.  Al Jazeera, when compared to the other stories is using a mix of government sources and other news agencies with one reporter account.  Depending on the validity of the new agencies used by Al Jazeera, the story might by slightly more open than the BBC story.  However, they are still fairly neutral on the story.  For this story, both agencies appear to be limiting any biases, which is good.  CBC News from Canada has the least amount of less sources out of the of four.  The CBC article does fails quote all of the paraphrasing, so this could be a little worrying as to who is saying what.  There is also the Thomson Reuters stamp at the beginning and end of the article which I would like to look into.  And then finally there is the New York Times.  The only agency that used four of their own reporters on the ground, two in the Ukraine, one in Russia and one in Britain.  I found that this story was written with the reporters thoughts as well as their analyses.  However they still mixed in government sources as well.  The article was definitely more of an entertaining read, than the other articles and I think thats partly due to it being The New York Times and that four reporters have had input into the story.  When cross-referenced it is plain to see that the only article that has slightly different information is the New York Times, this could be attributed to the reporters on the ground.  Most of the other information that aligns is from various government sources.  I hope this column has helped you take a closer look at the news you read and question the information that you come across..

I will vary the stories and agencies in the coming columns.  If there is a good response, I will look into four different agencies take on one story everyday.  I think it is important for us to open up our minds and decide what is really going on for ourselves rather than just take everything for face value.  I hope to look into articles that might have more variation as well, concerning environmental issues, sustainability and resources.  Thanks for reading and please leave me comments or suggestions if you can below!  (PS, some of the links may change as the sites update their articles.)

~AG

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