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The GW Hatchet

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SMPA partners with Polish news network to research journalistic standards

The School of Media and Public Affairs is partnering with a major Polish television network to research “newsroom standards and procedures” as the press comes under increasing fire.

A major Polish television network is partnering with the School of Media and Public Affairs to research “newsroom standards and procedures” as the press comes under increasing fire from the Polish government.

The research project started late last year after Scripps, the owner of Polish station TVN, sought out a partnership with SMPA to examine the station’s reporting standards and procedures. Officials said the project demonstrates SMPA’s dedication to free press at a time when journalism faces growing criticism around the world.

University spokesman Jason Shevrin said SMPA professors will evaluate sourcing, attribution, fact-checking and editorial decision making in TVN’s news coverage compared to journalistic principles with the aim of improving quality.

The study will also examine how often and in what context major Polish newsmakers appear in reporting, Shevrin said.

“The partnership will help TVN build on its dedication to providing high-quality news, with expert journalists and researchers identifying and measuring newsroom standards and procedures at the Polish broadcast company,” he said.

The right-wing government in Poland has been escalating attacks on the press in recent years and trying to subvert opposition voices. The government has appointed political allies as media regulators and used state-run stations to broadcast news coverage favorable to its agenda, according to a report by Freedom House, a watchdog group focusing on democracy and freedom around the world.

“The project provides an incredible opportunity to carry out the school’s dedication to a free press and to highlight SMPA faculty as globally preeminent in their fields,” Shevrin said.

TVN’s news networks and its nightly broadcast news show “Fakty” are the most watched news programming in Poland. The media group is also the leading Polish online news and multimedia company, according to an SMPA release.

“TVN is investing in professional fairness and an unbiased approach toward their journalism through this partnership,” Shevrin said. “This is critical in the current political climate surrounding journalism and the news industry in several countries worldwide, including Poland.”

While students won’t be directly involved in the research, Shevrin said the findings will inform course teachings through access to transcripts, articles and the TVN newsrooms.

SMPA Director Frank Sesno is part of the four-person GW research team. He said the Polish station’s dedication to a thorough, independent investigation of its practices by GW researchers is “admirable.”

“This is a groundbreaking partnership and a unique opportunity to reaffirm our school’s commitment to a free press and strong journalistic principles,” he said in an email. “Anywhere we can stand up for a free press and excellence in journalism, we are proud to do so.”

Jeffrey Blount, a former SMPA Shapiro Fellow and former NBC News director, and Richard Griffiths, the former vice president and senior editorial director at CNN, will also be a part of the research team. Both could not be reached for comment.

Robert Entman, a professor of media and public affairs and international affairs, will supervise the “content analysis” conducted in TVN’s Warsaw newsroom through periodic visits throughout the year.

Entman said TVN has been eager to hear feedback, welcoming the research team into its newsroom and granting full access.

“It is a unique and exciting opportunity for us to deepen our understanding as scholars, and an innovative way to carry out our school’s dedication to a free press,” he said in an email.

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