The Commodification of Journalism Ethics – Media Morality, Self-regulation and Social Responsibility in the Current Mediascape
This project studies the social role of Finnish media by researching the changing practices of news production and by analyzing the self-regulation guidelines that have recently been under re-examination. The research interest derives from the accelerated change of the journalistic culture which is approached from a perspective of media ethics. The primary focus is on the processes in which the journalistic values, ideals and norms are being negotiated in connection with recent changes in the media market. The context of this study is the commodification process that many journalism researchers have pointed to. By analyzing the mechanisms of press self-regulation and the moral ethos of the profession, this project aims to produce new empirical knowledge on the changing environment in which journalists do their work today. The data consists of documents pertaining to the Finnish codes of journalistic ethics as well as interviews with journalists. A case study approach is used to demonstrate ethical concerns in the context of real-life situations. The goal is to evaluate the value systems and the philosophical-ethical principles that underpin journalism ethics as well as to illustrate prob lems the media face in practically applying principles and standards. As journalists have a crucial role in implementing the codes of practice, it is essential to study how these are applied. Thus the focus is on the moral dilemmas and tensions facing journalists in their daily lives. According to a rather preliminary research plan, the research ques tions to be addressed are: What kind of a ‘moralscape’ do journalists find themselves today in Finland? What kind of societal relationship is the journalistic professional ethics based on and how do journalists conceive their own role within democracy? Theoretically the challenge is to discuss whether the social responsi bility theory still is a relevant way to describe the relationship between journalism and society. Traditionally it has been thought that the media have an important role in keeping the public informed and facilitating political debate. Therefore, it has been considered that the press is responsible for its actions to the society at large and the self-regulatory system per se is based on the idea that media have a duty to serve community interests and the public good. However, the journalistic culture in whole is unarguably in transition. Lastly, the study also aims to discuss the present and the future of the self-regulatory system on European level.