Optimism, Pessimism or Skepticism? News Outlets Focus on the Right Thing in Russia-Ukraine Coverage.

From a story on poynter.org by Tom Jones headlined “Optimism, pessimism or skepticism? News outlets focus on the right thing in Russia-Ukraine coverage.”:

Here are a couple of headlines that could be found at the exact same time on Tuesday.

First, from The Washington Post: “Ukraine-Russia talks stir optimism.”

Then, from CNN: “Pentagon says don’t be fooled by Russia’s troop claim.”

So maybe there’s hope that we are moving closer to peace in Ukraine? But maybe not. The theme in Tuesday’s coverage was one that could either be described as cautious optimism or wait-and-see skepticism.

And while audiences are searching for hopeful signs, and while intelligent analysis and predictions can be worthwhile, news outlets are doing the responsible thing — which is reporting what is factual, what is known, what is happening.

So here’s what is known.

The Associated Press’ Nebi Qena and Yuras Karnamau wrote, “Russia announced Tuesday it will significantly scale back military operations near Ukraine’s capital and a northern city, as the outlines of a possible deal to end the grinding war came into view at the latest round of talks. Ukraine’s delegation at the conference, held in Istanbul, laid out a framework under which the country would declare itself neutral and its security would be guaranteed by an array of other nations.”

That sounds hopeful.

“But,” The Washington Post’s Kareem Fahim, David L. Stern and Dan Lamothe wrote, “U.S. and other Western leaders were skeptical, saying they would judge Russia by its actions and not its words. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said there were continued strikes Tuesday on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.”

The AP story also stressed the skepticism being shown by the U.S. and Western leaders.

CNN military analyst retired Col. Cedric Leighton had an insightful analysis of Russian troop movements and said, “Color me skeptical” when talking about Russia’s “major strategy shift.”

The New York Times’ Carlotta Gall wrote, “On Tuesday, in negotiations in Istanbul aimed at ending the war, the Russians said they would ease their bombardment of Chernihiv, but their positions around it are already so fortified, and the city itself so battered, that the offer hardly amounted to a concession at all.”

Sources told The Washington Post’s Steven Erlanger that Russia isn’t so much de-escalating as it is retreating in certain areas, mostly because it isn’t having the success it anticipated. Erlanger wrote, “But retreat is hardly surrender, and some cautioned that the progress doesn’t mean Russia is ready for serious negotiations on ending the war. That would require a better outcome for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to sell at home as a victory.”

The news outlets are parroting (and there is nothing wrong with that) what U.S. leaders are saying.

Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, said Tuesday, “We need to see what the Russians actually do before we trust solely what they’ve said.” She added, “No one should be fooled. … The world should be prepared for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine.”

This is the kind of strong coverage needed — facts over wishful thinking.

Or put it this way, when it comes to optimism, pessimism or skepticism, news outlets have chosen something even better: realism.

More of the latest notable journalism involving Russia-Ukraine

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