The monitoring of media reporting that aims to assess the quantity and quality of investigative and analytical reporting is implemented under the auspices of the “Investigative Reporting for Promotion of Reforms” Project, financed by the European Union.The aim of the Project, which is implemented from 2016 to 2019, is to promote and stimulate the growth of accurate and investigative reporting with the purpose to contribute to better informed public and protection of public interest.In other words, the goal is to stimulate the editorial offices and newsrooms and their journalists to dedicate greater attention to in-depth, more substantial analysis of problems and issues, thus separating themselves, quality wise, from the influx of short, fast, superficial and sensationalist information, presenting the citizens with the context and allowing them better insight into the situation.
This is the second media monitoring report, the first being published in 2016.This year, again, the monitoring covers the investigative and analytical articles and stories published by the media, knowing that analytical journalism aims to make sense and provide the context surrounding the complex social issues that it attempts to explain, combining aspects of investigative and explanatory reporting.
The rise of fake news, various conspiracy theories and scams – and the part the social media play in their dissipation – have resulted in a situation in which facts and truth are lost in the overwhelming noise.It is the investigative and analytical journalism that are the most important tools of journalists’ mission – to seek the truth and speak truth to power.
The findings of the monitoring in 2017, compared to previous year, indicate improvement in the number of investigative and analytical articles in Macedonian media. However, their numbers remain worryingly low.We could say, therefore, that there is need for activities to influence the decisions of newsrooms and editorial offices to increase the presence of investigative and analytical articles in their media, as the strongest instrument available to media in the efforts to protect the public interest.
The monitoring found that, again, the bulk of the analytical and investigative articles and reports covered the topics of economy and politics, which means that the largest number of articles concerned subject-matters related to, and motivated by the current political affairs. The monitoring noted an improvement over last year in the actual volume of analyses and investigative stories on topics such as education, welfare and healthcare. However, their numbers, in terms of share of total number of investigative and analytical stories, remain relatively low compared to the dominant subjects of economy and politics.
A mild trend of improvement was noted in giving prominence to investigative and analytical stories through front-page treatment in the print media and listing them in the leads of daily newscasts, as well as in giving them top-billing, i.e. reserving for them the first pages of print media or first minutes of the newscasts and other information programmes.The conclusion is that the media start to recognize the importance of investigative stories and analytical articles and intentionally give them such top-billing.
Compared to 2016, when only a quarter of all investigative stories and analytical articles were produced on basis of prior independent investigations conducted by individual journalists, the number of such articles is somewhat higher and amounts to about a third of all articles. The fact remains, however, that a dominant portion of such articles were motivated and dictated by current affairs or events on which journalists have no influence whatsoever.The conclusion is that it is necessary to insist on the true value of investigative journalism – the independent investigations by journalists that pokes the dark places and uncovers issues that many don’t want to believe existed, while centres of powers are interested to keep those issues hidden from the public.
The findings of the 2017 monitoring indicate the existence of a particularly alarming problem that questions the credibility and relevance of already small number of investigative and analytical articles. Namely, the number of articles that didn’t consult any stakeholders is on the rise, while the monitoring also found a high percentage of articles that list no sources, or their sources represent a single side of the story and are biased.
It all indicates that, parallel with the need to increase the presence of investigative and analytical journalism in editorial offices, there is a need to improve the adherence of professional standards of journalism, such as the balanced and fair treatment to all sides and stakeholders in a story, as well as consultation and representations of positions of all stakeholders in an impartial manner.Because of media’s responsibilities to the public, and their long established confidence and legitimacy, it is crucial for the media to pay attention not only to what they investigate and analyse, but also how they do it.