Following the Lead When Nothing is Certain? Exploring the Image of Russia in Kazakhstani and Ukrainian Digital News Media
International news plays an important role in shaping public opinion about the foreign policy and leadership of a country. Yet research shows that the bias in favor of the current political leadership is prevalent in foreign news coverage. In this study, we explore whether these assumptions hold in the case of digital news outlets in media systems outside of established democracies. We examine the representations of Russia in digital news streams of Kazakhstan and Ukraine based on a collection of news published by about 30 top news websites in each of the countries during 2018 (n = 2,339,583 news items). To study the coverage of Russia, we follow an approach combining topic modeling for extraction of news agendas and qualitative analysis of news framing. Then, we compare Kazakhstani and Ukrainian news agendas and their framing. The results suggest that digital news media in the selected cases follow expectations based on the research of offline media despite the transformations that happened in news production with the advance of the Internet.