Comment is free, facts are sacred: journalistic ethics in a changing mediascape

Natalie Fenton & Tamara Witschge (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)

New communication technologies present several challenges to the role of the journalist in society. The functions of inquiry, observation, research, editing, and writing have had to adapt to the vast array of information available online: digital video footage, wire photos, amateur pictures taken with camera-enabled cell phones or digital cameras, the blogosphere, as well as the speed of 24/7 cable news. One challenge that is felt more profoundly than many is the role of so-called citizen journalists. In this paper we examine how, in this changing mediascape, newsmakers view, appropriate and evaluate citizen journalism. Through interviews and ethnographies in regional and national journalism – print, broadcast and online – we interrogate the response journalists make to these new news providers. How do professional journalists perceive citizen journalists? What do they believe sets them apart from the often unpaid, untrained news reporter online? The empirical material suggests that for journalists the main difference lies in journalistic ethics and values. Whereas citizen journalists are perceived to only be providing comment and opinion; trained and experienced journalists are felt to provide something more valuable: accurate and factual information, which is legally sound and serves the public interest. It is this contribution of the normative values of traditional journalism, the reassertion of objectivity and impartiality that makes journalists convinced of the future of journalism: the public will continue to need (maybe now more so than ever) the anchor that traditional news journalism provides in dealing with the abundance of information called news.

Timing - Saturday - Panel Session G1



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