Most newspaper coverage of the aftermath of the Leveson report into press standards has been “exceptionally negative” and failed to “back up criticism with evidence”, according to the Media Standards Trust.
The trust, a charity which aims to promote high standards in news media, released a report analysing over 2,000 articles about press regulation between the publication of the Leveson report in November 2013 to November 2014.
The report, authored by Dr. Gordon Ramsay, concluded that: “the national press appear to have ignored their own readers views in favour of an overwhelmingly one-sided editorial line - an editorial line that was consistent with their own interests.”
The report analysed the pieces by labelling them “negative only”, or “positively only” or “both.” It estimated that newspaper coverage of press-regulation was: “highly opinionated” with over two thirds of articles expressing a view on the issue.
Of these, 60 per cent of news articles were “wholly negative” and more than 80 per cent of leaders and comment pieces contained not one single positive statement about Leveson’s proposals.
The study also looked at the ratio between positive and negative stories per individual newspaper. According to the study The Daily Mail topped the negative list with only 13 per cent of its articles representing both views on the issue.
In contrast, the report claimed 47 per cent of the pieces in the Financial Times gave both sides of the story.
There was also, the report said, a “structural difference” in how sections of the national press covered Leveson.
Titles published by News UK, DMG Media, Telegraph Media Group, Trinity Mirror, and Northern & Shell, the study concluded, contained highly unfavorable coverage of the press-regulation proposals with over 70 per cent of articles containing a "negative-only" view.
However, titles published by Guardian Media Group, Independent Print, and Pearson had a roughly equal ratio of positive to negative articles.
The Drum spoke to the study’s author Dr Ramsey and asked if the report would be accepted as objective given the Media Standards Trust’s close links with pro-press regulation pressure group Hacked Off.
Ramsey said that the report’s conclusions had been validated by external researchers before publication, had been transparent about the methods used and had published these online.
He added that given his openness about his methodology he would leave the question of the study's accuracy "up to other people to decide”.
The Drum contacted many of the media organisations referred to in the report but had not received replies at the time of publication.