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petek, 3 decembra, 2021

How to discredit the validity of “politically-incorrect” finding?

By: Dr. Matevž Tomšič

A survey of the media landscape, conducted at the end of last year at the Faculty of Media, provoked violent reactions. As expected. The analysis of the reporting of the ten largest Slovenian online media on some of the most controversial topics in 2020 showed a marked imbalance in the media space. Among the media articles included in the survey, significantly more are defended by the views of the opposition, which now bears the name KUL, than by the views of the ruling coalition. In addition, significantly more contributions are left wing than right wing oriented.

Such findings are by no means surprising, as they are consistent with the results of comparable research on the subject conducted in the past. Nevertheless, they encountered resistance in some media circles, of which image could be tarnished because of them, and among those media experts who consider themselves the only ones who are “qualified” to give assessments of the situation in the Slovenian media space.

Attempts to reinterpret the results have emerged. For example, the web portal of the largest commercial television wrote that the data show neutrality and balance of reporting. Such an explanation is misleading. The fact that most of the considered publications do not have a clear “colour” is expected and is a consequence of the fact that most articles are short and factual. Such texts usually have no political or ideological connotations. However, this is not the key point of the research. Relationships within a group of politically defined and ideologically profiled articles are important. Here, however, those that promote leftist ideas and are in favour of the left opposition are clearly predominant.

In essence, the story from 2007 was repeated, when the first study of this kind was conducted under the guidance of the writer of these lines. Even then, many made great efforts to undermine the credibility of the findings of the research, even though they could not find any serious conceptual or methodological objections. A distinguished professor and academic, who criticised the study for the media, even sincerely admitted that he had not read the research at all.

Again, the credibility of the research is trying to be undermined, primarily through discrediting its authors. Thus, the problem is that it has been tackled by those who are not “morally and politically fit” for it. The authors are accused of “wrong” political affiliation, that is, support for the largest government party. Therefore, their work is also a priori politically motivated. It is interesting that public opinion researchers from one of the public social science faculties are never accused of such a thing, even though they are at least as politically defined as the authors of the “incriminate” research (the founder of their center was one of the main advisers to former President Kučan). Such obvious double standards, or in other words “first-class” is allowed what others are not.

It is particularly ambiguous that the credibility due to the alleged involvement in politics is attributed to researchers by the head of the journalism department from the aforementioned faculty, which is basically synonymous with politicisation. Namely, this department as a whole – not only its certain members – made a public political opinion statement during last year’s debates on the situation in the media space. The same happened during the referendum on the Public Broadcasting Act in 2005. The authors of the current research on the media landscape do not hide their political beliefs, but they know how to distinguish between their public-political engagement and professional work. This is not the case for some others.

It would be interesting to know why such studies are not conducted by these powerful media experts in public institutions? Probably because they know that the situation in the Slovenian media landscape is in fact as shown by the research, which is now so sharply criticised.

Matevž Tomšič is a sociologist, university lecturer and publicist. Since 2008 he has been teaching and researching at the Faculty of Applied Social Studies in Nova Gorica. In addition, he is also engaged at the Faculty of Information Studies in Novo mesto and at the Faculty of Media in Ljubljana. He is also a collaborator of the Study Center for National Reconciliation and president of the Association of Journalists and Publicists.

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