Mon. May 16th, 2022
Why journalists covering Ukraine and Russia lean into the many unknowns of war reporting

We’re seeing solely a small fraction of the motion in Ukraine and Russia proper now. And a few of what we’re seeing in social feeds and faraway commentary is distorted. So it is necessary for information shops to acknowledge this information hole and underscore the identified unknowns within the minute-by-minute protection.

I hate to fall again to the “fog of warfare” metaphor, nevertheless it exists for a cause. The fog is thick proper now. Army officers comprehend it. Throughout a Sunday morning press briefing with Pentagon reporters, an unnamed senior protection official stated one thing about “humility” that stood out to me. “The Ukrainians are placing up a really stiff and courageous and heroic resistance,” the official stated. “However we’re solely on day 4. And I’d be reluctant to offer an estimate of what number of extra days there are right here.” The purpose: Predictions are a idiot’s errand. Fight is ugly and unpredictable. “Everyone wants to have a look at this with a little bit of a way of humility right here,” the official stated.

Contemplate this…

French’s rule of thumb is that in warfare, “the extra particular the knowledge, the larger the grain of salt you must learn it with.” He stated “proper now, the extra dependable reviews, fairly frankly, are going to be the extra high-level, extra obscure reviews. Issues like, ‘The Russians are disillusioned by their progress to this point.’ That is one thing that I feel we may be fairly certain about. Some report that claims ’15 kilometers from Kyiv, there was a tank battle involving X variety of tanks destroyed and X variety of Russian troopers killed,’ take that with an enormous grain of salt as a result of we do not know. We do not have the assets to know. And actually, we would not know for a very long time precisely what occurred the place and when on this combat.”

Sensible challenges on the bottom

Curfews and checkpoints are two of the sensible challenges for reporters in Ukraine proper now, on high of the apparent safety and logistical issues. “It is a gigantic feat of logistics to stay or transfer round in Ukraine proper now,” NPR’s Tim Mak tweeted. “Gasoline, energy, comms, transport, housing, security [are all] fixed points.”

CNN’s Clarissa Ward in Kyiv introduced up the curfew problem and “very actual limitations on the place and the way we will transfer round” after I spoke along with her on Sunday’s “Dependable Sources.” She described how CNN staffers have been “combing exhaustively by means of all of the social media footage” from Ukraine and Russia, working to geolocate it and “place it in its acceptable context.”

Social media as “power multiplier”

Amongst specialists who assume lengthy and laborious about social media and data wars, I am seeing two totally different strains of thought. One is that the eyewitness content material coming from Ukraine is critically necessary and compelling — a “TikTok warfare” in motion. That is true. However there’s additionally reality within the different line of thought — that we’re seeing comparatively little video from the entrance strains. As Emerson T. Brooking of the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab wrote, “The buildup was recorded on TikTok and in relative security. However streaming apps aren’t good when battery and bandwidth are scarce. As a substitute footage shall be uploaded in waves, at any time when terror recedes.”
The identical competing strains of thought apply to disinformation. Sure, there are numerous mislabeled and completely bogus photographs and movies making the rounds, however Casey Newton provided this contrarian view on Sunday: “The function of misinformation/disinformation feels minor in comparison with what we would have anticipated. It is an unusually clear case of fine vs. evil, and that has translated with highly effective readability within the media — together with social media.” Newton added, “Tech co’s have to remain on alert for viral rubbish, after all, particularly as Russian state media will get deplatformed and Putin has to depend on ‘natural’ posts. Within the meantime, although, social media has largely struck me as a power multiplier for Ukraine and pro-democracy efforts.”

Conflict in 2022 means…

…Unbelievable digital platforms are arising towards the crude, merciless actuality of killing. City warfare specialists are tweeting tricks to Ukrainian civilians. The makers of a recreation concerning the influence of warfare on civilians are donating profits to the Ukrainian Pink Cross. Pictures of charred corpses are interspersed with the conventional sights and sounds of social media.
Here's why Russia's invasion of Ukraine is being called the 'TikTok war'
Huge Tech is a giant participant on this, whether or not it needs to be or not. Over the weekend Google joined Meta in barring Russian state media shops to run advertisements. Authorities officers like EU Commissioner Thierry Breton are pressuring Huge Tech to take a tough line towards Putin. After a name with YouTube and Google leaders on Sunday, Breton wrote, “On-line platforms took unprecedented steps after the Capitol Hill assaults. Absolutely Russian warfare propaganda deserves not less than the identical stage of response.”

Google disables stay visitors information in Ukraine

Keep in mind final week’s stories about lecturers recognizing visitors jams on Google Maps and anticipating the beginning of the invasion? Properly now there’s this:
“Google Maps has blocked two options in Ukraine that present data to customers in actual time,” CNN’s Brian Fung reported Sunday evening. “The disabled options embrace Google Maps’s stay visitors overlay — a characteristic some researchers have used to watch the battle from afar — in addition to Stay Busyness, a characteristic that shows how fashionable a location could also be at a given time. Google made the change in an effort to assist hold Ukrainians protected and after consultations with native officers, the corporate stated.”

Two Danish journalists wounded

Danish correspondents Stefan Weichert and Emil Filtenborg “had been driving close to the city of Ohtyrka — which is round 60 miles outdoors of Kharkiv — when gunfire peppered their automobile and left each bleeding closely from bullet wounds,” The Every day Beast’s Nico Hines reports. They had been capable of escape and had been handled at a hospital. “The star freelance journalists, who stay in Kyiv, have been submitting dispatches from Ukraine for The Every day Beast and Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet,” Hines wrote.

The final information crew in Kharkiv?

Darja Stomatová is a reporter for CNN Prima Information, a CNN worldwide affiliate within the Czech Republic. On Sunday she reported stay for each CNN Prima and for CNN’s world viewers from a makeshift shelter in a lodge in Kharkiv. “She says they often is the final international crew there,” Ed Meagher wrote.

Stomatová described “the state of affairs was altering” all through the day on Sunday: Loud gunshots within the morning, explosions, then some semblance of calm. “It is rather necessary to be right here proper now,” she stated. Her companions on the lodge bunker really feel like pals at this level, she added.


Sunday’s NY Submit entrance web page was headlined “FIGHT LIKE ZEL.” That type of says all of it. “Earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky was typically derided as a comic book turned unlikely politician,” the NYT’s Steven Erlanger writes. “However with the assistance of social media, he has turn into the chief Ukraine didn’t comprehend it wanted.”

Ukrainian TV stations have backup studio in bunker

Oliver Darcy writes: “Ukraine’s TV corporations are going to do every little thing they’ll to remain on the air, ought to Russian forces seize management of their important studios. A spokesperson for the 1+1 Media Group, one among Ukraine’s largest media conglomerates, informed me over the weekend that it has, in collaboration with different TV corporations, ‘developed a plan for a backup studio for TV broadcasting, which is situated in a specialised shelter and can be utilized within the occasion of a risk to interruption.’ As I wrote in Friday’s e-newsletter, Ukraine’s TV stations are all in emergency mode, broadcasting continuous information protection with no business breaks.”


Darcy continues: “The 1+1 rep informed me that the continuous protection, which has been dubbed the United Information Marathon, is feasible by means of teamwork. ‘We now have teamed up with different Ukrainian media teams to broadcast in turns for six hours every in a single broadcast,’ the spox defined. “Every time an air risk is introduced in Kyiv, our colleagues are going stay from a backup studio in Kyiv. Plus, the corporate’s picture information service, UNIAN, can also be providing its photos without charge.”

Newfound scrutiny of Russia Right now

Russia Right now, the Russian-financed propaganda community, is beneath strain proper now. A number of staffers have publicly stated they’re resigning in current days. Distributors have been questioned about why they’re carrying the community. WaPo’s Paul Farhi took an in-depth look at RT and stated it “seems to be considerably extra profitable in spreading its message by way of digital platforms — partly as a result of its posts on Fb, TikTok and different platforms are amplified by right-wing American commentary organizations.”
— Associated: Ann Simmons goes inside Russian state media and explains how they’ve “issued disinformation that seeks to assist” Putin’s model of occasions. (WSJ)
— Former RT anchor Liz Wahl says “One factor that’s clear to me: Fox Information hosts like Tucker Carlson, together with different right-wing media figures, are at instances indistinguishable from the propaganda on my former community, RT.” (Daily Beast)

Inside ‘Russia’s Final Unbiased TV Channel’

“We face an enormous risk. It isn’t straightforward to work right here beneath the circumstances,” TV Rain anchor Ekaterina Kotrikadze informed me on Sunday’s present. She described the Kremlin’s repeated crackdowns on free media in Russia and TV Rain’s battle to remain on-line. Masha Gessen additionally spent an evening on the community’s studio — learn the story for The New Yorker here.

A “troubling tone” — and offensive comparisons

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shocked the world as the biggest cross-border European battle in a long time. However some observers see a troubling tone creeping into how some media shops have tried to contextualize it, describing Ukraine as extra ‘civilized’ than different nations, equivalent to Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria,” WaPo’s Sarah Ellison and Travis M. Andrews wrote Sunday. Charlie D’Agata of CBS apologized after one among his remarks went viral over the weekend. He was “simply one among many correspondents and commentators utilizing offensive comparisons of their effort to elucidate Ukraine’s plight,” they wrote.
>> Al Jazeera has a story all about this, as effectively.

Notes, quotes and additional studying

— A lot of Monday’s papers are main with a model of this Financial Times banner headline: “Putin places nuclear forces on alert.”
— Examine CNN’s stay updates web page for the newest data right here.
— “The sudden smothering and suffocation of the Russian economic system is with out fashionable precedent,” Derek Thompson commented. “That is terra incognito and I do not know what occurs subsequent.” (Twitter)
— Charlie Warzel on the expertise of the information proper now: “As with the earliest days of Covid, new and nuanced data is tremendous necessary nevertheless it’s additionally mainly inconceivable for the information to provide folks what they need which is any type of certainty/definitive aid.” (Twitter)
— Jim Acosta’s touch upon Sunday evening: Zelensky “was requested if he wished to be evacuated. He stated, ‘I want ammunition, not a experience.’ If you wish to give anyone a experience out of city, let’s give it to Vladimir Putin.” (CNN)
— Condoleezza Rice on “Fox Information Sunday:” “I have been informed the Russian tv is enjoying [World] Conflict II and Nazis and so forth, however no person beneath the age of 40 in Russia watches tv. They’re on the web. They will see what’s taking place there.” She stated Putin is “having a tougher time hiding his crimes than he did even in 2008.” (Newsmax)
— It seems the influence of Putin’s warfare “is beginning to set in, startling even his most ardent state TV propagandists,” Julia Davis writes. “It is all enjoyable and video games ‘until they seize your Italian villa.” (Beast)
— Li Yuan reviews that the “Chinese language web” is “largely pro-Russia, pro-war and pro-Putin.” (NYT)

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