I'm sure this is not an easy question, but one that I feel is important.

Since the start of the Ukraine crisis with the Crimean crisis, I've often often heart people from Russia saying things about the crisis that I either find far-fetched or just unrealistic, as they really differ from what I heard in the (German) news. For example, a friend of mine told me that the whole crisis would be planned by the USA, that would now profit from the decreasing money rates in Eastern and Western Europe. What I find interesting is that he got that idea from a Russian television broadcaster.

I haven't heard of anything like that in the German news, which lead to this question.

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    You're basically asking us to weigh the relative bias in Russian vs. other media. That's going to be very subjective, and may not lend itself well to question and answer format. I'm willing to follow community lead here, but I don't think you'll get a good answer. – Affable Geek Jan 2 '15 at 2:43
  • The answer doesn't have to include every single thing you can imagine, but it should be reasonable and logic. In order to avoid subjectivity on this topic one could refer to facts. Thank you for your time and help. – Tacticus Jan 2 '15 at 2:51
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    I am from Russia and we do have strong propaganda, but I'm afraid that the same rate of propaganda is at Easrtern media, because independence of the media from government does not make it independent of its sponsors or funds. When I'm struggling with the acception of any piece of news I ask myself only one question - "who would benefit from this?" - and sometimes it really makes sense. – Aleksandr Shumilov Jan 2 '15 at 19:05
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    I suggest a somewhat different approach than comparing German media to Russian media. Try to compare German media to German media, basically how they report on different conflicts. Compare, for instance, how they report on current crisis in Ukraine to how they reported on the crisis in Syria and Libya. The both Syria and Ukraine currently (and formerly, Libya) suffer a civil war. Do you see any difference in how the media treats the government side and rebels in these cases? This will more or less provide an answer to your question. – Anixx Jan 30 '15 at 11:55
  • I would distinguish between accuracy and lack of subjective bias. I don't think that there is a huge amount of subjective bias in Western reporting on the Ukraine, but due to limited media resources in the region, it may not be the most accurate source of information. – ohwilleke Jun 19 '17 at 18:45

As you said, it's nearly impossible to do a short answer.

However, as good basis of understanding:

  • Nearly 100% of Russian mass media (including 100% of TV) is controlled by Russian government, directly or indirectly

  • Very little of German media is controlled by the government, German or especially USA. Most of them are far to the left of Merkel, and aggressively opposed to Merkel politically; and mildly-to-strongly anti-US (e.g. Der Spiegel).

    The same is true in many other Western countries.

  • Good point, but there has been an interesting survey just some days ago: According to this german source, 47% of the population says that western media wouldn't report objectively about the crisis. I'm searching for reasons why that are so many people (actually more than those that think the opposite). – Tacticus Jan 2 '15 at 19:25
  • I'd disagree with that -ARD & ZDF are also government controlled (obviously to a lesser extent). As you mentioned the Spiegel his "Stop Putin now" cover after the downing of MH17 certainly wasn't proper objective journalism. And there are ties of many journalists to American Think Tanks - heise.de/tp/artikel/38/38515/1.html Furthermore one of the bigger german media companies has it's own set of rules (axelspringer.de/artikel/Grundsaetze-und-Leitlinien_40218.html) which are heavily pro-US, Israel and Capitalism. The Lügenpresse assertions now commonly heard are bullshit(1 – user45891 Jan 2 '15 at 21:27
  • )(2) espeically compared to the Russian situation - but perfect objectivity isn't attained. (Sorry for the exclusively german sources but I'm sure your favorite translation service will work that out) – user45891 Jan 2 '15 at 21:29
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    @Tacticus, there's a difference between an absolute objectiveness (which probably does not exist in human world) and completely forged, fake news like "crucified and then eaten russian-speaking infants" being replicated over and over on the russian "news". This article (in German) has a good insight. – bytebuster Jan 9 '15 at 21:54
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    @Tacticus Survey data should always be taken with a grain of salt. The data doesn't tell you what is true, it only tells you what the majority of the people believe to be true. Also, survey results can be influenced a lot by how exactly the question is worded. – Philipp Mar 7 '15 at 12:34

As has been alluded to, you must consider the interests behind each source, reporter, and publication (I will just talk below about US vs Russia, as the West-East divide seems far to large and imprecise to talk about differences in objectivity).

In general, publications want to keep existing, which means their directors must keep happy those who provide their financial resources. In the US this typically means fulfilling readers and the publication's owners political interests (what they think should be produced; these can be your typical ideas of liberalism and conservationism, or even science, art, and money). In Russia news publishers are more biased toward the owners political interests but because they are not all completely subsidized by the state, just more often persuaded by it, the paper must still satisfy readers' politics.

While the reporter also seeks financial resources, they live within a broader culture of ethics, morals, and norms that will influence their capacity for objectivity. Are the journalist cultures in the West and Russia different? How do we show that they are or are not? In both places there are similar formal rules about investigative journalism and reporting, and in both places these rules are broken. Taking from 'Sturgeon's revelation', it is important to assess the best 10% (PBS news hour, political science journals and newsletters, reputable surveys, new yorker, lenta.ru, ) and not wade through the 90% of crap journalism that is inevitably inherent everywhere (CNN, Foxnews, Wallstreet Journal, Nytimes, pravda, RN). When looking at that best 10% of journalism, in Russia there remains substantial physical and financial fear to refrain from reporting objectively. In the US objectivity is curbed by personal and cultural subjectivity and financial interests. Currently in Russia the physical fear and financial fear come from the same place and have interests in maintaining a singular national power. This means that the careful reader can more easily observe and account for bias in Russian publications than in the US whose objectivity comes from multiple venues, but this does not mean that their is truth within either a Russian or US article. Rather it means it is easier to assess bias in Russian publications than in US publications. I believe, to get clarity one must investigate on their own and evaluate the information and knowledge claimed.

Sources of information, whether they are from a scientists or political activists, also have political interests. While if we have sorted out the publication's interests and the reporters' we should be able to determine how a source is found, its quality determined, and how it is used, investigating the source is another important element to being properly informed.

  • I tend to agree... State controlled media exhibit directed bias, from the state. Commercial media in the west exhibit a commercial bias: they emphasize or play down what they think will yield the greatest commercial benefit to them. Consequently, there is a wider range of 'opinionated news' in the west, sort of a 'choose your bias', but the reader interested in the full story is still left with quite a treasure hunt. – tj1000 Jun 19 '17 at 17:02

The way the Western press reports on Ukraine is not very objective despite not telling outright lies the Russian state controlled media is guilty of. What goes wrong with the Western media is that it chooses to report on only some issues, so this is then more a problem a problem of "reporting half truths" instead of reporting outright lies. So, by only reporting about the military aspects of the Ukraine crisis, many core issues of the problem are almost totally ignored.

E.g. in a big BBC report of a few days ago, only a few sentences were devoted to the fact that in a village that has been held by rebels for quite a while, most people are not loyal to Kiev, while the population used to be split 50-50 between pro-Kiev and pro-Russia sides. This is highly relevant for the dynamics of the conflict, yet almost totally ignored.

So, it is possible to effectively tell lies by only telling truths, and the Western media are masters at doing that. But how can that happen if the media is free? The answer is that it happens because the media is too free. What is printed in the press is dictated too much by what people want to read about. After all, the primary objective is to sell newspapers. Sensational stories will drown out other stories, leading straight to the half truth problem.

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    -1: this post if full of biased statements and unbacked claims. They were "just unbacked" in 2015, but after two years since this post was made, it becomes clear that most of the claims are simply false and essentially replicate the Russian state propaganda. – bytebuster Jun 19 '17 at 17:44
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    @bytebuster This has nothing to do with Russian propaganda. You have to consider that the Western media does have a soap like aspect to it where too much attention can be given to some popular story, which then distracts from other issues that are more important but less popular. The media is also about educating people and a media that's too free is like a school where the children set the agenda instead of the teachers. – Count Iblis Jun 19 '17 at 22:44
  • It is against the policy of SE to demand our trust the unsubstantiated statements. The entire post is based on certain claims, and these claims were "not commonly accepted" as of 2015 and are "confirmed false" as of today. So either these statements get backed with credible references, or the entire idea of this post is undermined. – bytebuster Jun 19 '17 at 23:23
  • See here for the same issue in a wider context. – Count Iblis Jun 19 '17 at 23:30

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