Throughout all western media, from the Anglosphere to Europe, news coverage of the war in Ukraine has decreased considerably since the recent escalations in Israel. This new crisis has captured the hearts and minds as well as the attention of the general populace. This interpretation is backed up by Ipsos’s polling, which suggests declining interest across the UK. All eyes are now fixed on the bombardments across the Middle East.

Does anyone care?

There are still dedicated people who are informing people about the events. One such person is Yaroslava Antipina (@strategywoman) is a citizen war diarist who has amassed over 100,000 followers and has continued to offer on the ground coverage from Ukraine. She reports on the living conditions of the people in Kyiv. Many of her posts describe with brutal honesty just how people in Ukraine feel: “no power, no water no heating. All we have is our lives”. People in the UK are still closely following the events in Ukraine as a show of solidarity.

I contacted three of Yaroslava’s followers: Elizabeth from London, Amelia from Oxford and Ruth from Surrey. Only Amelia had any previous family connections with Ukraine, while Ruth and Elizabeth had lived throughout the cold war and were concerned with the recent escalation. I asked them how much time they believe should be spent on the coverage of Ukraine. Amelia believed that “I think we need balanced coverage. Of course, the war in Ukraine is no longer “new” and so is likely to be superseded in the media”. Ruth described the frequency of coverage she would like to see Ukraine receive. She said, “I think it’s important that we get at least weekly in-depth updates on the Ukrainian counteroffensive.” Elizabeth especially seemed to feel that the amount of death that has been caused by the war in Ukraine really should be garnering more attention. In her words, “I think the war in Ukraine should be covered a great deal more than it is now…there are missile and drone attacks happening every night against civilians in cities and towns”. It is interesting that all three of these people shared the core belief that there really needs to be more coverage of Ukraine, but to different extremes.

A production line of crises

The reality is that the media will always rely on sensationalism to sell papers; as Amelia puts it, “there is always an element of headline grabbing… they do cater to what they think the public wants”. Something important to note is that what people are interested in and what the media would like to believe the public is interested in can be two very similar sounding but very different ideas. Perhaps it is naïve to believe that the media companies are working in the public’s interest and not for their own purposes. Ruth put this best when I asked her if she thought media stories should be dictated by popular interest. She believes that “I also think that the mainstream media has its own agenda in terms of what they prioritise”. Whether a news story receives prominent coverage will be largely dependent on how much impact it has on the world at large, but to act as if the agendas that these media producers have have no impact would be infantile. I’m afraid, like most big questions, the answer is trapped in a complex gordian knot of collaborating factors. On one hand, the media is dependent on readers because what they’re interested in shows what they need to focus on. At the same time, people can only focus on the topics they are made aware of by the media. As Elizabeth so succinctly puts it, “it’s like saying what came first, the chicken and the egg”.

I then asked whether they felt that some of the coverage of the invasion of Gaza was superfluous and didn’t educate people that much. Among the people interviewed, Amelia believed that “graphic details of victim experiences have been overdone”. There does seem to be this undercurrent of belief that the media cycle requires new conflicts to generate interest and that the Ukraine war has been “overdone”, as callous as that phrasing might be. An opinion expressed by Elizabeth when she said, “The media have, to a certain extent, gotten tired of the Russian war on Ukraine and I find that Israel and Palestine are talked about a lot more by influencers and celebrities”.

Do you even care?

Still, we need to reflect on whether our reliance on social media users to deliver the news that the mainstream media isn’t discussing is really a good precedent. The way in which misinformation can quickly spread throughout its digital architecture has been a problem for years. Personally, I think the question of whether we should be reliant on social media assumes that we can’t ask for more from both new media and old media. As Amelia says, “we need good investigative journalism that shows us things we didn’t know we needed to know”.  I think that, by and large, having people with political agendas dictate how most people will hear about what happens in other countries is less than ideal. But secondly, when we neglect to talk about topics like Ukraine, intentionally or not, we’re sending the subconscious message that the crimes perpetuated against Ukraine and the entire invasion itself is dealt with because now we’ve moved on to the next thing.

Bombs, guns, and screaming children are found aplenty in this media model, less so in the history and culture of these places and how those interlocking factors led to violence.

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