Old and new constraints in foreign news coverage in post-communist Ukraine
In the 1970s, when intellectual debate in the rest of the world was preoccupied with the problem of an imbalanced, one-way information flow between Western industrialized countries and less-developed countries in South and East, people in the Soviet Union faced another problem — a problem of deficit of information from the West, which was a result of purposeful politics of the Soviet state. In 1989 the Iron Curtain fell, but it does not mean that nowadays there are no bounds and boundaries in the flow of information to and from the Former Soviet Republics. This paper deals with the issue of foreign news in contemporary Ukraine and explores constraints in making international news in the media. It analyses a set of determinants of international news production in the Ukrainian media and the way they influence the scope and quality of foreign news coverage. The research is based on interviews with about thirty media experts and news producers at major Ukrainian broadcasting organizations, as well as from print and online media. The interviewees — editors-in-chief, heads of international news’ departments, foreign correspondents — were asked about the process of international news production in their editorial offices, the human and technical resources allocated for foreign news coverage, the professional standards of international journalism, as well as the main sources of foreign news and criteria of their selection involved in the news making process. Results of the study show that international news making in Ukraine is influenced by peculiar factors rooted in the Soviet past, such as journalists’ inclination to one-sided reporting and poor command of foreign languages except Russian, and by common factors determining tendencies in foreign news coverage worldwide, such as the pressure of the market which induces cost-cutting in media organizations and tabloidization of media content. An important finding of the study is the conclusion about indirect, or circuitous movement of foreign news from international news agencies to the Ukrainian media. Because of the peculiarities of Ukrainian news production described in the paper, news from Reuters or Associated Press regularly reaches Ukrainian editorial offices after it has been processed by Russian newsmakers.