2011-2013: Moral Dilemmas in Online Journalism

Abstract

Ethics experts and media organizations have been concerned in the last decade with the new moral challenges coming from online journalism and the need to readjust the present deontological codes for journalists. Our project focuses on a broader sphere of digital journalism, namely on the “civic journalism” practiced on blogs by columnists. Their confusions of roles (journalist vs. civic advocate) engender typical moral issues, such as conflicts of interests, the promotion of certain political or economic agendas, denial of responsibility for inaccurate information, lack of distinction between advocacy and factual information. In the ethical assessment of these moral imbroglios, we identify ethical dilemmas typical of “civic journalism”: public/institutional censorship vs. self-regulation; impartiality vs. advocacy and hidden political agenda; transparent identity vs. fake identity. In order to conceptualize the moral dilemmas which have emerged in civic journalism, we will use concepts belonging to journalism ethics, contemporary moral philosophy (Habermas, Taylor), concepts in the sociology of “professional fields” (Bourdieu), as well as concrete instruments of analysis of the ethical decisions in journalism (“the Potter Box”). In spite of the anti-normativity assumed by bloggers, our aim is to make aware both theorists and journalists of the need of “local” principles and values which are meant to develop the existing deontological codes and the “internet etiquette”.

Project director: Dr. Victor Popescu