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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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11. Realms of Influence on Media Accountability: Olivier Baisnée & Sandra Vera Zambrano



Chapter 11

Realms of Influence on Media Accountability

Olivier Baisnée & Sandra Vera Zambrano

The purpose of this chapter is to explore what field theory (Benson 1999; Benson and Neveu 2005) might add to the understanding of media accountability in a comparative manner, in order to add an additional theoretical perspective to the discussion of the MediaAcT survey data.

Why should we use field theory to analyze media accountability and borrow principles and ideas from Bourdieu’s analytical framework (Bourdieu 1992, 2002 and 2005)? A first indication of the usefulness of field theory to analyze media accountability is that it helps to understand issues of ethics in journalism in a complex and historically evolving manner. Patrick Champagne’s contribution to Bourdieu and the journalistic field (2005, 48) opens with the following sentence: “It is certainly no accident that for some time French journalism has seemed preoccupied with problems of professional ethics”—and follows on with: “In short, the journalist is an uneasy awkward figure, capable of good as well as bad, who has come to terms with the political and economic constraints that weigh on him, rendering his position unstable and uncomfortable”. In this respect media accountability appears to be a fruitful empirical opportunity for field analysis. Not surprisingly, Champagne, who was one of Bourdieu’s closest collaborators, and the one who invested the most in the study of journalism with the field theory analytical grid, dedicated an article to an archetypal institution of...

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