10th October 2012
By Alexandre Leclercq

EJN Audit Proposal Highlights Good Governance in Journalism

Aidan White

An initiative to promote ethics, good governance and transparency in media which has been developed by the Ethical Journalism Network is being given a trial run in Pakistan by the Dawn Group, one of the country’s leading media companies.

Dawn, a newspaper and television conglomerate, operates in one of the world’s most robust and vibrant media communities where journalism across all media platforms works at a cracking pace.

But tooth-and-claw competition for market and audience share is taking its toll. Many people rightly worry that the overheated atmosphere of newsroom rivalry is putting intolerable pressure on standards of journalism.

They point to numerous financial, political and editorial scandals involving high profile reporters and television anchors in recent months.

In such conditions, how can media companies build public trust and make themselves more open, inclusive and accountable? It’s a question being asked not just in Pakistan, but in India and many other countries where media are expanding rapidly.

Now, with the help of the EJN, the Pakistan Coalition for Ethical Journalism, a network of local media and journalism support groups, has launched the report proposal which helps local media open themselves up to more scrutiny and an internal reporting process to measure performance, set goals, and manage change.

By getting media to prepare their own internal audit, with information on company work and levels of commitment to ethics and good governance, the proposal will increase transparency.

The information is important for internal consumption, but it can also be a useful marketing tool that can help build trust with the audience and to promote the company’s brand as an ethical and responsible provider of journalism.

Many companies already do this and some are obliged to do so – such as the BBC and other public broadcasters, for instance – but it’s a relatively new concept in journalism.

Earlier this year the Schibsted Group, which publishes newspapers in Norway, Sweden, Estonia, France and Spain, published for the first time a comprehensive report on its editorial work which outlined its commitment to editorial codes and standards.

The EJN media audit draws heavily upon the detailed and comprehensive international standards of reporting for media drafted by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and GRI’s Media Sector Supplement, which was launched in May 2012 (See www.globalreporting.org.)

But it is a much simpler and less demanding reporting process designed for medium-sized and small media companies, many of which do not have the resources to properly review their internal standards. The details of the reporting process can be found here.