As the Russia-Ukraine war grinds on more than a year and a half after the initial invasion, U.S. economic and military support for Ukraine has become increasingly embroiled in domestic politics. How is the media covering Ukraine as the war continues?
The timeline below shows total daily mentions of Ukraine across BBC News London, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News since the start of last year. The initial early January 2022 jump in mentions captures the growing fear of an invasion, leading to a vertical surge in coverage as Russian troops surrounded and then poured into the country. Remarkably, peak coverage lasts only a single day (February 25, 2022) before immediately falling. Coverage remained elevated for about two weeks, but then began declining the week of March 14, eventually reaching levels in May 2022 at which it has remained ever since.
From a peak of 1,500 to 2,000 mentions daily on the day after the invasion to between a few dozen and a few hundred a day since, Ukraine remains a constant but low-bore topic on the news. BBC News has mentioned the war the most, with 203,655 mentions to date, followed by CNN’s 166,304, MSNBC’s 116,658, and Fox News’ 90,246. BBC News has mentioned the war 2.3 times as much as Fox News since the invasion.
Remarkably, the Ukraine counteroffensive has not led to a meaningful boost in coverage. The offensive receives just a handful to a dozen or two mentions a day, peaking on select days on BBC News with just over 100 to 125 mentions.
While President Volodymyr Zelensky received a burst of attention in the early months of the war, he has largely faded from both television news and worldwide online news. Zelensky himself receives less than one-fifth as much coverage as his country does on a typical day. While the country itself often centres its messaging around its wartime leader, global media focuses more on the country as a whole.
What about onscreen textual mentions of Ukraine? The timeline below shows a pattern similar to spoken mentions, though while CNN has not ramped up its spoken mentions of Ukraine, its onscreen textual appearances noticeably increased in mid-May. While BBC News dominates spoken mentions, CNN leads in onscreen textual appearances, totalling 1,408 hours to date, followed by BBC News’ 1,112 hours and MSNBC’s 790 hours. Fox News once again comes in last with 631 hours – 2.23 times less than CNN.
While television coverage remains relatively stable, worldwide online news coverage is declining, though it has stabilized in the last few weeks.
U.S.-based Google searches about Ukraine collapsed largely in step with media coverage and have been on a similar long-term decline through this year.
The bottom line is that media attention to Ukraine continues to stagnate and fade in combination with growing economic woes in the U.S. and Europe. This suggests the likelihood that it will be increasingly difficult to maintain public support in the United States and Western Europe for Ukraine without a major breakthrough that returns the war to the media forefront.