What is journalism in the digital age? What counts as news? This chapter reflects on the consequences for ethics in professional journalism at a time when the space available online for news and current affairs reportage and commentary has expanded exponentially; when the speed at which news can be reported and immediately commented on has increased dramatically; and the accessibility of ‘journalism’ for anyone with a computer and the right software along with the interactive qualities of the internet all pose a challenge to professional journalism that is felt throughout the news industry.
But a focus on the technology alone presents only one small part of the whole news picture. The technology may have created the means by which multiple stories can be told simultaneously, but it exists within a complex political economic context of deregulation, marketization and globalization — taken together, these factors have exerted multiple pressures on the ethics of professional journalism and on the mainstream news industry that are felt directly through profit loss redundancies, restructuring and closures. Journalists find themselves battling for credibility and the news industry fighting for economic survival. In this environment the codes and conventions of professional journalism are challenged. Commercial pressures of news production prevent journalists practicing much of what they value in their profession. And as the glut of information, opinion and commentary online expands daily, so too do the difficulties of establishing authenticity, source verification and accuracy. But in a world of communicative abundance there remains, more than ever, a sense that there are many things that news journalism ought to be doing – to monitor, to hold to account and to facilitate and maintain deliberation. This chapter explores how the practice of ethical journalism requires more than self-regulation and argues that the structures that enable ethical journalism to thrive need to be re-imagined and re-stated.
Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths, University of London
what do you think? how is journalists’ understanding of “news” changing? why?