Well, ČTK Says It's True
A new poll just released by the Czech polling firm IVVM shows that only 24% of Czechs are completely satisfied with the re-election of Vaclav Havel as President. 40% expressed only minor reservations, but 33% expressed more serious concerns.
Combined with recent polls showing public confidence in Havel slipping behind that of Tošovský, Buzková and Gross, it seems clear that a serious shift in public opinion is underway.
Oddly, one wouldn't have guessed this from the way in which ČTK reported the news: "Většina občanů je se zvolením Václava Havla prezidentem pro další volební období spokojena." This slant on the news was reprinted word for word by the Czech media in the newspapers and on the ČTV Teletext.
As usual in the Czech media, facts are given a particular spin by ČTK and that becomes fact in all the organs which pick up the story from ČTK. The facts and the opinion are mixed into one and presented as news.
Over-reliance on ČTK is an essential problem in the Czech media today. The point is that not only are various media organs accepting ČTK's reporting, they are also accepting ČTK's particular gloss on current events. This assures the reader that no matter what paper he reads, the articles will always be the same, sometimes literally.
The above example is worth looking at more closely. I feel that it is helpful to distinguish fact from commentary.
The facts in this case are these:
IVVM asked people if they were satisfied with Havel's re-election. The results of this poll are this: 24% said they were fully satisfied, 40% said they had minor reservations, 18% were mostly dissatisfied with the re-election and 15% were fully dissatisfied with it.
Now, one can analyse these facts in several ways. One can say that the results were 64/33 in favour of Havel's re-election. One could say that it was 24/73, that is 3 people had some reservations for every one that was satisfied. These are different analyses of the facts.
In the Czech media, the distinction between the presentation of facts and their analysis is very blurred. The key problem is that the Czech media are not analysing the way they present their articles. Too often newspapers simply repeat what ČTK issued verbatim. Copying ČTK's headline and text verbatim does not serve the Czech reading public properly.
There is a need to separate facts and commentary in journalism, and journalists and editors ought to be able to use ČTK in a more constructive way. They ought to be able to pull the facts of the story out of the ČTK release and judge them for what they are worth. In an open society, one would expect different newspapers to present the news in different ways and not just obediently reprint a central agency's material.