The Newswatch (http://www.newswatch.in/) probe, which tracked 30 news sources across the Indian media, also looked specifically at the front pages of ten editions of eight newspapers that the launch of the report 'Status of tigers, co-predators and prey in India: 2008' generated. Revelation: only three featured the story as its lead; in one it was the second lead but prominently displayed. "This study is not meant to debate whether the dip in tiger numbers is a newsworthy and significant issue. That it is indeed so, is an incontrovertible truth," said the Newswatch editor, Subir Ghosh.
"The stories," the probe found, "did not devote too many words to the news. The mean word count was 376.13. Almost one-third failed to mention where the tiger census report was unveiled. The report was a joint publication of NTCA and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). But, just six said so. Only four of the 25 that quoted R Gopal referred to him correctly as member secretary NTCA. The rest got it wrong."
The NTCA/WII survey had an error coefficient of 17.43 per cent. The number of tigers could vary from 1,165 to 1,657. This aspect was significant, but was rendered insignificant by half the publications tracked. Counting was not carried out in three tiger reserves. This fact was statistically important, but more than half the stories ignored this point. The NTCA/WII report talked of three primary causes for the alarming tiger number decline; close to one-fourth missed out on this point as well.
The Newswatch study, Tail tell tales, has been published under the slug 'Contentious', which would be a series of reports that would be content analysis accounts of the news media. For the complete PDF version, go to: http://www.newswatch.in/research/262/
This study was conducted over a six-day period starting the day of the report launch. It was meant to be a qualitative analysis, not a quantitative one. The idea was to look at the way the news media covered the issue, and not to quantify the exact number of publications that did a story.
The tracking of stories was done by browsing through the websites of news establishments as well as monitoring stories through Google News. In all, 30 stories were selected to be analysed for the 'breaking news' category. The 'breaking news' in this case is not the same as that in a live medium like television, radio or the Internet. In the Newswatch studies, 'breaking news' is the first story of an incident —in this case, the launch of the report by NTCA on February 12, 2008.
Over 200 stories were identified in the first round. Over two-thirds of these were rejected for being duplicates — these had their origins in agency creeds. Initially, a five-day period was chosen. But since newspapers needed to be given a day's leeway, the study had to look at stories that were published between February 12 and 17, 2008. There was also a need to see how the news-break was being followed by different publications. In the five-day follow-up period, only 36 news items could be tracked down across the publications monitored.
The stories selected for the analysis were coded on basis of over 20 parameters. Each of these data entries were subsequently cross-checked by two other persons to avoid errors of omission and commission. There is but one shortcoming in the study — it looks only at the English language media. This was done, or not done, only because of logistical drawbacks —lack of adequate financial resources.
Details of the report:
Size: 1 MB
For more information contact:
Subir Ghosh, Editor-Publisher, Newswatch