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TitleWhat is journalism and what only looks like it? Re-defining concepts, roles and rules in the wide field of communication
Author(s)Fidalgo, Joaquim
Media ethics
Public interest
Issue date2007
PublisherInternational Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR)
Abstract(s)In today’s public information landscape, it seems to be increasingly difficult to draw a clear line between what is and what is not journalism (even if it appears as such). Under this cover, a lot of different practices are being developed in the wide field of communication, raising complex questions about what specifically defines journalism – whether it is carried out by formally recognized professionals or media companies, or by other kind of individuals and groups who now have easy access to public communication instruments (Internet sites, weblogs…) and commit themselves to gather, handle and diffuse some kind of information in the public sphere. We can say that professional journalists (and their institutional contexts) no longer have the monopoly of this activity – of this public service, we should say. Still, many new actors trying to enter this field – or to mix with it – very often don’t seem to respect some of the basic standards and ethical demands in which journalism is grounded, although they tend to use its technical tools and usual forms and models. In this paper, we present a case study of a Portuguese quality daily newspaper in which these questions were discussed (namely through the involvement of its ombudsman), following the publication of a piece of work presented just as a journalistic piece, but actually ordered and paid by an external advertiser. We argue for the need of a kind of back to basics effort, meaning specifically back to ethics, under the assumption that, particularly in our digital environment, the line defining the boundaries of journalism (and, therefore, distinguishing journalism from other forms of public communication) is, above all, not a matter of “who”, “what” and “where” things are done, but rather a matter of “how”, “why” and “what for” you do them. That is to say, only information gathered, designed and published according to the ethical principles and procedures of journalistic professionalism, genuinely aiming to serve the public interest and the need for the citizens to make sense of the world they live in, is really trustworthy information – which means that it is not an activity driven by some hidden, commercial, private interests of various kinds. We argue, furthermore, that these different kinds of information and communication in the public sphere should always be clearly identified and identifiable by the media users. In fact, this seems to be important in order to preserve the specific value and role that journalism can claim (and play) in contemporary societies, as well as to protect it from a sort of dilution in the broader and vague field of public communication activities and jobs.
TypeConference paper
AccessOpen access
Appears in Collections:CECS - Atas em congressos | Seminários / conference proceedings

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