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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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8. Media Accountability and Transparency—What Newsrooms (Could) Do: Harmen Groenhart & Huub Evers



Chapter 8

Media Accountability and Transparency— What Newsrooms (Could) Do

Harmen Groenhart & Huub Evers

One of the main traditional tasks of journalism is to be a public watchdog, calling the powers that be to account and compelling their transparency. Over recent decades moves towards more accountability can be seen in many sectors including government, banking, trade and industry and the legal and medical worlds (Bovens 1997, 2006). Today, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil movements like Transparency International, Anonymous and Wikileaks continue to demand more transparency, and, as argued in the introductory chapter of this book, more transparency is also being required from the news media in order to hold them to account. For instance, the Leveson Inquiry claimed that the press needs to be as “transparent as possible” (2012, 38) to meet the traditional premises of both a free and accountable press. The role and importance of transparency and accountability in journalism seems to be increasing as professionals estimate it will gain importance in the future (Drok 2012) and professional self-regulatory bodies increasingly define it amongst their core values (Deutscher Presserat 2008; Washington News Council 2010; EJTA 2006).

Primarily, transparency aims to enable the public to value assertions (The Leveson Inquiry 2012), to hold the media to account (Council of Europe 2012), to increase their trust in journalists (De Haan 2011; Meier and Reimer 2011; Roberts 2007), and to serve as a means for self-legitimization (Bardoel 2010; Singer 2006). The literature...

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