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Journalists and Media Accountability

An International Study of News People in the Digital Age


Edited By Susanne Fengler, Tobias Eberwein, Gianpietro Mazzoleni and Colin Porlezza

Media accountability is back on the political agenda. Debates about the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World have shown that the need for free and responsible journalism is more pressing than ever. Opinions, however, differ on the measures that need to be taken. Do existing structures of media accountability – such as press councils, codes of ethics, and ombudspersons – suffice, or do we urgently need new instruments and initiatives in today’s converging media world?
These questions were tackled in an international survey of 1,800 journalists in twelve European and two Arab states conducted by the EU-funded research project, «Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe» (MediaAcT). The results provide a solid empirical basis for the discussions taking place. This book advances research on media accountability and transparency, and also offers innovative perspectives for newsrooms, media policy-makers, and journalism educators. Its systematic comparative design makes it an unprecedented venture in international journalism studies.
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3. Innovations in Media Accountability and Transparency: Heikki Heikkilä, Michał Głowacki, Michał Kuś & Judith Pies



Chapter 3

Innovations in Media Accountability and Transparency

Heikki Heikkilä, Michał Głowacki, Michał Kuś & Judith Pies

The question of how the autonomy of and public trust in journalism are (and should be) balanced out has been under debate since the early 20th century (Dovifat 1931; Siebert, Peterson and Schramm 1956). Today, this discussion is as intense as ever. One obvious reason for this is the unprecedented growth of Internet-based digital communications. In the world of print, radio and television, news organizations are becoming multimedia players and many of them anticipate that their survival will be online rather than offline (Anderson, Bell and Shirky 2012). Equally importantly, the Internet has blurred the structural distinction between reception and production by enabling users to be not only consumers of media but also creators, participators or curators (Aufderheide, Clark, Nisbett and Dessauer 2009, 3).

It is likely that most of the new features in public communication will be introduced on the Internet rather than outside it. However, it is not certain that these new features will be specifically designed to enhance the liability and answerability of the media—two principles broadly encapsulating the idea of media accountability (McQuail 2003). Therefore, it is important to pay particular attention to emerging online practices that either explicitly or implicitly aim to hold the media accountable.

In this chapter we leave liability issues (legislation) aside and focus on practices designed to improve the answerability of journalism...

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