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    Unbalanced Stories and Misinformation: What Kills High-Quality Journalism

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    Some people argue that journalism, as we know it, is under the threat of extinction, while the modern digital world leaves little room for real, investigative stories. In an interview with Sputnik Germany, Swiss journalist Roman Berger commented on the issue.

    Berger believes that a balanced coverage of events based on facts is under threat. The former Tages-Anzeiger correspondent in Moscow and Washington is well acquainted with the problems that journalists working abroad have to face.

    According to him, high-quality journalism requires a sufficient number of correspondents on the spot. Moreover, these correspondents should live in the relevant region for as long as possible, because for a balanced coverage of events it is important to know local culture and living conditions.
    However, this approach is practically not applied today, the journalist complained.

    "A correspondent is sent to the scene like a parachutist; he is just dumped in the conflict region. But the problem is that these 'parachute' journalists do not know the local language and the region itself. The result is a poor coverage of events," Berger stated.

    Shortly before the dissolution of the USSR, Berger was sent to Moscow to work as a correspondent. Within a few years the political situation changed drastically, and Western media should have increased the number of local correspondents, but the opposite happened.

    "Every year, the number of Western correspondents in Moscow was declining. The West believed that the Cold War was over. At the same time, foreign correspondents were too expensive, and the Western media decided that they could do without them," Berger explained.

    This had a serious impact on the coverage of recent conflicts, taking place on the post-Soviet space.

    "I often visited Ukraine, and I saw very well how local events were covered. After the beginning of the conflict, journalists who had no idea about the country arrived there. They did not understand this country, so there were a lot of misinforming reports," Berger said.

    According to him, the Western press had to take into account Moscow's position and cover the events from both sides.

    "I remember the headline — 'We must stop Putin.' This personalized, Putin-related coverage of events was a big mistake. A different position was rarely presented by the media; for example, there were no opinions of Russian experts that could make it clear to the readers that the world looks different from Moscow's perspective," the journalist stated.

    A similar situation occurred with regard to Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election. Leading newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times did not believe in his victory and were simply taken by surprise.

    According to Berger, there is practically no balanced journalism in the US that takes into account different views on a certain problem.

    "Previously, there was a rule, according to which the media had to give a say to both sides. Ronald Reagan canceled it, and now, for example, Fox News can broadcast opinions which are not based on facts," Berger said.

    In his opinion, the working conditions in a modern newsroom have also changed. Previously, newspaper journalists had to prepare the issue within 24 hours, but now, when there are printed and online versions, the pressure on journalists has significantly increased.

    "I see how much pressure is put on journalists who must produce three, four, five stories a day to fulfill the norm. My former newspaper now even offers bonuses for plots that receive a large number of views. Of course, this is a very dangerous trend. The journalist is constantly under pressure and has to produce tempting stories as quickly as possible," the journalist concluded.


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