How the Same News Is Reported On by Three Different Hungarian Portals

Ever since the Hungarian-Russian intergovernmental contract was signed on 14 January 2014, followed by the Hungarian-Russian loan agreement, the Paks II project has been subject to fierce debates in Hungary. The agreements concern the construction of two new 1,200-megawatt reactors at the Paks nuclear power plant in southern Hungary. The plan has been facing obstacles from the beginning. One of these obstacles is the EU’s investigation. This short analysis looks at how three Hungarian online media outlets reported on a possible EU infringement procedure against the project. The three media outlets studied here are 444, Index and Origo. The first two of these are known to not be pro-government, while the last of them is.

By Kamilla Strausz

The articles selected were published on 17 November 2015. They reported that Hungary may face EU infringement proceedings for the Paks II project.  The goal here is not assessing the performance of a particular media outlet or journalist. Rather, the analysis aims to see whether media outlets distort reality in accordance with their world view.

The analysis of writing styles presented in the Timeline above is supported by an examination of which section the news outlets published their report in. 444’s article was published in the POLITICS section, Index put the story under ECONOMY, and Origo also published it in its ECONOMY section. This is closely connected to the tags used. The three media outlets added altogether 12 tags to the articles. These tags can be divided into nine groups. Their distribution is presented in the table below.

When analysing quality journalism, it is important to see what references are used by the authors and how.  All three portals referred to the news site BruxInfo, which first broke the news about the possible infringement procedure. These references are clickable in all three articles. In addition, 444 and Index referred to their earlier pieces (444 twice, Index once) to give context to the news. Index also linked to a PDF document version of the Hungarian bill T/13628 on the Paks contract. Another feature to look at under this category is whether the authors of the pieces are named in the by-line. 444 includes the author’s name in its articles, while the name is missing from the Index and the Origo piece.  This is important because the journalist’s name may make the article more credible. It needs to be noted, though, that Index usually leaves out the author’s name when the piece is taken over from another publication.

Journalists’ tools and instruments can also be examined. The most important tools include the use of images, highlights, and quotations. 444 and Index included a picture each in their pieces. Index has a dramatic photo from Paks. In contrast, 444 uses a picture from a demonstration against Paks II. This clearly shows 444’s position on the matter.  Both media outlets give appropriate credits to sources. All three portals use highlights in their articles. 444 has one highlighted section, while Origo has two. The role of these highlights is to underline the most important parts of the articles. Quotation is only used by Index. It cites then Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár’s words on the issue.

Finally, let us look at the titles. The authors of 444 and Index gave similar titles to their pieces. The titles given by 444 (“Brussels may suspend Paks enlargement”) and Index (“Paks plans may be suspended by Brussels”) are both informative and fairly neutral, other than the term Brussels, commonly used in government propaganda. The title given by Origo is a bit more negative: “Another warning is coming from Brussels.” It also uses “Brussels” to mean the European Union.

Finally, let us look at a word cloud made of the titles of articles published in November 2015 covering the topic by 444, Index and Origo. This clearly shows that the most important words - “Brussels,”, “utility costs”, and “Lázár” - completely reflect the main messages of Hungarian ruling party Fidesz’ communication. This means that in addition to informing readers, the articles are dominated by political interests.