2nd October 2013
By Stefanie Chernow

Crisis of Quality Journalism is Top of Media Agenda

There’s plenty for journalists to worry about these days — new business models, innovation and technology, press freedom, media regulation, labour relations and safety issues are all big issues for media professional groups. But members of the Ethical Journalism Network have identified quality of content as their number one priority.

In a survey carried out in August this year, with responses from 85 percent of the EJN’s members and collaborators, the issue of standards and reliability emerged at the top of a crowded list of concerns facing the media industry. The Report of the survey can be found above.

The survey asked our supporters to identify their top four action points as the industry continues a process of transformation into a converged, digital environment. A clear majority pointed to worries over quality and reliability of content.

The point was reinforced in answers to a second question about the importance of good governance, ethics and self-regulation. An emphatic two-thirds majority say that these questions have become more important.

In the last few years media have struggled to define new business models and to transform their newsrooms to meet new technological challenges while at the same time maintaining their focus on news safety and press freedom, two issues that have dominated the international media agenda over the past 20 years.

Most EJN members cover a range of concerns while others have a specific mandate. They were asked to identify the top four action areas from a list that included press freedom and safety; media development; media policy and regulation; business models; technology and innovation; quality of content; or another subject of their choosing.

The results placed worries over content ahead of press freedom and safety and was a box ticked twice as much as than questions of media policy, media development and the impact of technology.

“Although the agenda remains generally the same,” said Aidan White, Director of the EJN, “it’s clear that worries over reliability of content and quality of information have moved up the list. There’s a growing and shared concern about how to improve journalism and content across the spectrum of media services.”

The survey was carried out to identify issues to be taken up in the new three-year programme of the EJN to be launched next year.

The results show that members of the EJN are ready to collaborate on cross-industry initiatives to promote common ethical and governance standards.

All the members who responded agreed to work on three proposed industry-led studies including a survey on the value of self-regulation and inquiries into the problem of hate-speech in media and the crisis of paid journalism.

The survey also asked members what role the EJN can play in the coming years and they agreed that raising awareness of ethical and governance issues should be the most important objective as well as improving links between media professionals and media support groups at global level rather than at national level.

“After a year or so of our work it is useful to take soundings among our members,” said White, “and it’s clear that the media community is more open to opportunities for working together to build credibility and standards. It’s a good sign and will help us develop an activity programme that meets the needs of journalists and media.”

The results of the survey and the action programme for 2014-2016 will be further discussed at a meeting of the Network which will take place on December 4th in London at the headquarters of the Thomson Foundation.

Photo: Flickr CC vanhookc