Media content monitoring is a tool that can be used to look into the way different groups of people (including women and men) are represented in the media. This can be used to make inequalities and trends visible and point media organisations to the ways in which their content could be improved to better represent the full diversity of society.
Reflecting on and then analysing how media content portrays different groups is a necessary first step in encouraging fairer participation in both the media and the society the media should mirror. This media self-awareness is crucial if it is to foster accountability.
Who monitors media content?
Media content monitoring is a method which evaluates different elements of a text. The method can be used by:
- Media outlets to monitor the quality of their own productions and make sure they are in line with the standards and themes of their editorial strategy. The collected data can also be used to raise awareness among individual journalists and editors about the quality and representation of their work.
- Media development organizations for insights into the quality of the content produced by their partners. Collected data may be used as a baseline to assess the learning needs and effectiveness of current intervention strategies, but also for comparative analysis with the rest of the sector. A final use can be to evaluate whether partners adhere to the agreed standards of charters.
The media content monitoring process
In order to monitor the content of media outlets, the purpose of the monitoring must first be defined. Based on this, the monitor can determine the sample and relevant quality categories and redefine them for the specific project. These criteria can fall under the umbrella of ethical principles (such as truth and accuracy, fairness and impartiality) and journalistic craft (such as contextualization, comprehensiveness, structure).
Additional thematic criteria can also be taken into account, such as gender, human rights etc. Categories are then divided into questions (variables), which are answered by ‘coders’ who conduct the monitoring. The variables are put into a codebook, which contain instructions and definitions the coders can follow. The coders also have a set of indicators per question, which they select and fill into the coding sheet. The data is then analysed and gives an overview of the quality of the productions included in the sample.
Media Content Monitoring Toolkit
With this toolkit, Free Press Unlimited provides media outlets and media development organisations with guidelines to develop and implement a media content monitoring methodology.
Each section of the toolkit will provide concrete examples of indicators, based on the media content monitoring experience of Free Press Unlimited.