A content analysis of The Sunday Times editorials in first 15 years of current century – Part 2 of a two-part analysis
Posted on January 12th, 2016

By Professor Shelton Gunaratne, Ph.D.

 Reliability of the Analysis

To ascertain whether the results of our content analysis was generalizable to the entirety of Sunday Times editorials published during the period 2000-2015, we drew a second (non-stratified) random sample of 15 editorials for the same period as a crosscheck. This selection yielded the following results:

  • February 11, 2001: “Batty and the economy” (Comment on Justice Minister Batty Weerakoon’s view that the only way to combat the cost of living was to drastically reduce the military spending. The correct approach, the editorial argued, was for this “brazenly profligate government” to cut its “extravagant costs” incurred on duty free cars for Members of Parliament, a large Cabinet, and Presidential palaces. This was, therefore, an exception that did not fit the dominant themes of the ST editorials.]
  • June 17, 2007: “Save the planet”[ STs concern with the Greenhouse effect reflected in this editorial is consistent with its concern for animal rights/slaughter expressed in the first random sample. It criticized the United States, India and China for not taking the Kyoto protocol seriously because the 2007 “G8 declaration on global warming does not spell out specific goals for each industrialized nation or a United Nations formula for the rest of the world to adopt.” One may call another exception to ST’s dominant editorial concerns over this period.]
  • January 13, 2008: “Devolution begins with the district” [This editorial repeated the need for the introduction of the 1981 District Development Council system “as the first step towards devolution of power to the peripheries” because “ a federal system of government does not have universal acceptance in this country.” It criticized the Tamil political leaders of the North who are asking for the re-activation of the 13th Amendment that was “shoved down the throat of Sri Lanka by the then Indian Government.” It slammed the IC for their intense pressure on the government to devolve power as part of a negotiated political settlement with the Tamils of the North and the East.]
  • August 10, 2008: “Chinese Dragon awakes” [Looking at the ups and downs in China on the occasion of the extravagant opening of the Beijing Olympic, the editorial asserted that today China, which has become the world’s fourth largest economy, “is capable of opposing the US and the West on Iran’s nuclear issue, the Darfur crisis, the Kosovo issue, etc.” However, it took issue with the country’s human rights problems and its insistence on denying the Dalai Lama to visit the sacred Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka. One can look at this article as an expression of the ST’s thematic disgust with the arrogant West.]
  • July 3, 2011: “Govt says ‘No’ to a modern citizen’s Right” [The ST showed its umbrage at the government’s continued pussyfooting with the FOIA since the turn of the century. “A Right to Information Law is not for editors to ask for a government file, but for ordinary citizens to apply for a government file anywhere in the country,” the editorial declared.” It pointed out that the argument based on national security had little substance because such information was already exempt from the FOIA, which would, however, enable citizens to get information on “the bankruptcy of Sri Lanka Cricket, just three months after co-hosting the World Cup, or the expenditure of Rs. 400 million for a four-kilometer stretch on the Chenkaladi-Maha Oya road in the Eastern Province or the expenditure of Rs. 40 million for the 1.7-kilometre of the Hettipola-Chilaw road about which even the local Panduwasnuwara Pradeshiya Sabha knows nothing of, or how school admissions take place, how tenders are doled out, or even how the head of the legal division was recruited to the Ministry of External Affairs.”]
  • March 18, 2012: “India: To be or not to be with Lanka” [This editorial, which was typical of the ST’s consistent India bashing, claimed that the “friendship” that certain Tamil Nadu legislators and politicians have had with the LTTE was public knowledge. It went on to say: “The Indian position on Sri Lanka has often been triggered by the dynamics of Tamil Nadu’s vote- crazy politics. The one recent exception was India looking the other way when the LTTE, which killed one of its former Prime Ministers and more than a thousand of its soldiers, were liquidated militarily in 2009. … India’s vacillation over the vote on the US resolution is fraught with intricacies. It has to be on the good side of the US. Yet, it does not want China to go one-up by supporting Sri Lanka while India votes against Sri Lanka. No doubt it needs to worry about the domestic pressures from its regional partners, and the sustainability of its very coalition government due to constant blackmailing.”
  • April 22, 2012: “The intricacies of the Indian factor” [Yet another India-bashing piece, this editorial welcomed a delegation from both Indian Houses of Parliament to Sri Lanka. The editorial asserted that although India kept saying it respected Sri Lanka’s sovereignty right through the years, India actively supported the secessionist insurgency in Sri Lanka. It advised the Indian MPs to go back and report that not all of Sri Lanka is linked to Tamil Nadu. The delegation (five of them from Tamil Nadu) in their discussions here seemed to accept that Indo-Sri Lanka relations couldn’t be Tamil-centric. The editorial said that Sri Lanka is wary of the “Indian-style” devolution being parroted by India and the TNA because many saw it “as India’s attempt to have a proxy or puppet ‘Government’ installed in the North preferably by its authorized local agent, the TNA.”]
  • September 30, 2012: “Agriculture in poison hole” [This was an unusual editorial of excellent developmental journalism that deviated from the ST’s emotional rhetoric on its dominant themes to analyze the plight of farmers in the North, North Central and Eastern provinces who face an epidemic of chronic kidney disease because of excessive use of low-quality fertilizer and pesticides with a high content of arsenic and cadmium. It called on the government to adopt an overall agriculture policy of gradually transforming to bio or organic farming.]
  • March 1, 2015: “Northern PC: Spoiling for another fight” [The last editorial in this sample, continued with its ST’s penchant for criticizing Tamil politics in the North –one of its very dominant editorial themes over the 15-year period. It condemned the rabble-rousing NPC resolution calling for an investigation into “genocide against the Tamils since 1948″ and asserted: “The aggressive nature of the resolution and the fresh intransigence of the north, spoiling for another round of conflict offers little hope for reconciliation.” It continued: “No doubt, communal frenzy is the mainstay of the northern politicians. Spurred on by the Diaspora, their grip on the north, their authoritarian rule in the province is wholly based on whipping up the communal card. The north is run, not by the people who live there wanting their lands back to cultivate, requiring clean water, good education, health, sanitation and housing, but the Diaspora driven politicians who thrive on conflict.”  Finally, it aimed the final shot at the NP chief minister, thus: “Having served as a Judge of the Supreme Court, and an upright judge at that, the Chief Minister knows the repercussions of words, their nuances and interpretations. He ought to, by now, know the socio-political fallout from these hysterical utterances. And, to thine own self be true; can he, a learned man, who was given his due place in the country’s highest judicial court, to determine the fate of all citizens irrespective of race, justify his recent deed?”]

The headline of each editorial in the sample provides a rough indication of its thematic thrust. These themes are very similar to the dominant concerns we found in this report through the content analysis of the (stratified) random sample analyzed in Part 1. We did not think it necessary to apply statistical tests to ascertain the reliability of these two samples because the elegant results derived from converting qualitative information into numerical values are no better than the general inferences one could make by reading the text.

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