A sneak preview of a monitoring exercise of the National Media Commission (NMC) shows that stories on various issues monitored in 30 major newspapers nation-wide were factual and balanced.
However, when it came to reporting on political issues, the likelihood of stories not being balanced or factual were significantly higher.
A snapshot of figures from the exercise shows that apart from articles on insurance, which had 4.8 per cent of the total monitored not being factual and 9.5 per not being balanced, articles on political issues were the only category that, comparatively, had significant percentages that were not factual or balanced.
Out of 1,072 political articles, 4.3 per cent were not clear representations of what really was the case, while 27 per cent did not also state the views of key relevant sources.
The monitoring exercise by the NMC is for 2007 and the commission is preparing to come out with the results soon.
Statistics on stories on politics were significant, in comparison with other stories on issues such as agriculture, the environment and banking.
All articles monitored on agriculture, the environment, banking, health, ICT, industry, legal, the Legislature, local government, the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), mining, religion, the stock exchange, trade, women’s issues and transport were factual. That is, they were a clear presentation of what the case was.
Out of all the news items monitored, only articles on science were both factual and balanced.
Less than one per cent of news items monitored on education, human rights, labour, media related issues, drug abuse and development were not factual. However, about 10 per cent of those articles or one in every 10 of them, were not balanced, that is, they did not state the views of other relevant key sources.
Almost all other news items on issues such as disasters, the vulnerable and excluded, crime, security, tourism, the Judiciary and the Executive had less than four per cent not being factual. However, most of the same articles were not balanced.
For instance, while just 1.3 per cent of the articles on the Executive were not factual, 13.9 per cent lacked balance, with articles on conflict and peace recording just 1.1 per cent as not factual and 17.8 per cent as lacking balance.
The trend of articles being factual and lacking balance was a dominant one in most of the articles.
Sharing her views on the trend, the acting Director of the School of Communication Studies, Dr Audrey Gadzekpo, said there was something intrinsically wrong with stories that were not factual.
“Stories that are not factual are no stories,” she added, and went on to explain that a story could be factual and not balanced, a situation in which the story had all the facts but fell short of presenting all the perspectives that would give readers a good basis to make a choice or reach a decision.
Dr Gadzekpo said the significant number of political stories in the print media monitored that was not factual and lacked balance showed that journalists were partisan in their approach to political issues and were not showing maturity in their ability to pull off their political biases and put on their professional hats.
She pointed out that most people in the country had particular preferences for political parties, individuals or ideologies but professionalism enabled them to set their preferences aside in their work.
Dr Gadzekpo said similarly, journalists needed to gather and present news in ways that were inclusive of all perspectives.
She described the monitoring exercise of the NMC as a good thing that would put a face to some of the pitfalls of journalism.
She said if the industry would act on the results of the monitoring, it would be a self-correcting measure for a better media environment.
The NMC monitoring began in July 2006.
DAILY GRAPHIC, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2008