Because media coverage vacillates depending on geographic and political context, press reviews are often used as cultural snapshots of global current events. But these reviews may not provide the most accurate insight into national opinion, says Stephen Ennis, a Russian media analyst for BBC Monitoring.
In a post on BBC’s journalism blog, Ennis discusses the drawbacks of using press reviews to gauge public attitudes in countries where press freedom is limited. Case in point: Russian media's take on a massacre in the Syrian town of Houla.
“Russian television played down the significance of the tragedy, and tried to blame anti-Al Assad forces. This was the key media angle to the story in Russia,” Ennis said.
News reports on the three main state-controlled TV channels (Rossiya 1, Channel One and NTV) are generally constructed to the liking of national authorities, he explained.
He also stated that Russian papers like Kommersant reported the story “in a similar vein to most Western media,” but that most Russian news consumers get their information from television—5 to 10 million, compared to the 2 to 3 million who read the most popular daily, Komsomolskaya Pravda.
“Most Russian newspapers are read by well under 1% of the adult population,” Ennis said.
Compare that to the BBC's own more balanced review of the bloodbath, which took into account media outlets in the Middle East, Russia, China and France.
What do you think, are press reviews an ethical shortcut for reporting on international events?