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Media Credibility Index report - October - November 2012
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
February 05, 2013

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Scope of the research

The Media Credibility Index (MCI) covers the two-month period from October 1st to November 30th. It involves monitoring and analyzing the content and credibility of stories published on the front pages of newspapers and those billed as the top three stories in the broadcasting media.

A total of 12 media outlets were monitored in the period under review, compared to the 10 that were under study in the September-October edition of the MCI. The two additions comprise the recently launched Star FM, a commercial radio station set up by the state-owned Zimbabwe Newspapers group (Zimpapers), publishers of the majority of newspapers in the country, and the state-owned radio station, Spot FM, which falls under the auspices of the national broadcaster, ZBC. See Fig 1.

However, due to some operational constraints, MMPZ was unable to survey the news output of Zimbabwe's first mainstream private radio station since independence, Zi FM, which started broadcasting in July last year in the current edition. The project plans to include it in its next issue of the MCI.

Methodology

The research used both the quantitative and qualitative methods in measuring the credibility of the issues covered in the respective media. The quantitative aspect involved measuring all quantifiable issues such as the number of stories and sources used in the media's coverage of the subject. The qualitative aspect was used to fine-tune the quantitative findings, including the how credible the media is when covering stories.

The qualitative aspects were informed by ethical journalistic principles and good practice of accuracy, balance and fairness as described in earlier sections of this report. Anything that failed these standards was therefore deemed unprofessional. In this context, various indicators were used to interrogate the credibility of the leading reports appearing in the country's mainstream media.

These mainly involved assessing completeness in news coverage; editorial intrusions; newsworthy events overwhelmed by trivia; representation of individual/party/corporate interests; lack of distinction between fact and opinion; manipulation of public/party opinion etc; obfuscation of facts with prejudice or supposition; and lack of discipline in verification. From this process, reports were then classified as either fair or unfair; accurate/inaccurate; trustworthy/untrustworthy; balanced/unbalanced; biased/unbiased; reliable/unreliable; thorough/not thorough and; informative or not informative, benchmarks we used to categorise stories as credible or not.

Summary Findings

Both the print and electronic media carried a total of 909 top stories in the period under examination. These were on various issues, such as politics and governance; social; and economic and business news.

Of the 909 reports, 772 were credible while the remaining 137 were not. This translated to a credibility-rating index of 85 percent, a 24 percent increase from the 61 percent credibility rating these media collectively scored in the August-September 2012 survey.

In other words, Zimbabwe's mainstream media carried more useful and informative news reports in the two-month period under review than it did in the preceding period (August and September). Fig 2 gives a breakdown of the overall credibility of each media outlet. It should be stated however, that the news agenda in the periods covered by the two reports is also certain to have affected the quality of the reporting as much as reflecting an improvement in the quality of the reporting itself. For example, political reporting tends to succumb to reporting from the perspective of certain political agendas and to editorial intrusion, and therefore contributes to a lower overall average if there are more stories relating to political reports from one period to the next.

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