How is the war in Ukraine shifting the media’s power?

By Rita Flores

The media has risen as a whole to cover the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Journalists are able to show unspeakable damage with a speed and reach that has never been possible. Has this constantly live coverage made the public trust the press again?

Half a century ago most of the public would blindly trust the press, even after Vietnam and Watergate, back in 1976, 72 per cent of the public said they trusted the news media. But recently the numbers dropped to 34 per cent.

George Brock once defined journalism ‘as the systematic, independent attempt to establish the truth of events and issues that matter to a society in a timely way.”

And technology has given this conflict an intimate feel in conveying not just the military and political strategy surrounding Russia’s invasion but the human emotions around it.

When the Soviet Union fell in 1911, it was the first time that a world leader’s resignation speech like Gorbachev was live broadcasted by CNN and aired in over 150 countries, followed by a sit-down interview.

It was the first worldwide event in history where people could follow everything that was happening minute by minute even though the coverage was limited and nothing unexpected happened. Which is absolutely the opposite to what we are witnessing in Ukraine these days.

The biggest impact of Russia’s invasion on the media landscape in Europe was the hard stop on Russian propaganda.

Slovakia as still being one of the countries who was still under the influence of Russian propaganda and with the invasion giving it rise to disinformation, the parliament passed an amendment to the Cyber Security Act on Saturday, February 26th, allowing the National Security Authority to shut down sources of “malicious content.”

And similar moves have been taking place across Europe, when in March the EU officially banned Kremlin-backed media outlets RT and Sputnik.

This leads to a bigger dominance of US and UK news media in European news coverage. The Press Gazzette reported more than 50 UK journalists sent to Ukraine to cover the conflict. As for the US, according to the head of CNN International, Mike McCarthy, the network had 75 people in Ukraine, including drivers and local interpreters.

All the big newsrooms like NY Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, BBC News, and others are running daily live blogs on the war in Ukraine.

However, in Russia fewer independent media outlets operate every day and with the tighter control over the internet, the public has even less real news. Media outlets have to name the war as a “special military operation” and journalists who try to resist face harsh consequences Deutsche Welle wrote.

Journalism and coverage have developed in many different ways over the years taking different shapes and approaches, and TikTok seems to be the latest outlet driving the news due to the facility to make real videos about the war going viral.

Today, it’s not just professional creators who have the skills to create videos but there are many many tools aimed at the general public to produce a viral video in a matter of seconds. And because it’s so live, some people believe it’s the most reliable news source we have.

Doesn’t matter how fast and how live news are reported nowadays. There is still a lot of fake news and disinformation out there and that is why the power of the media is backed on faith and on the belief that journalists are dedicated to pursue the truth without fear or favour.