Pompeu Fabra University. Research group about Journalism

EE Research

The major research project undertaken so far by GRP, in the topic of journalistic ethics, is called "Ethics and Excellence informative. The journalistic ethics to the expectations of citizens. "

This project was conducted jointly with teams from the Carlos III University of Madrid, the Basque Country University and the University of Seville. He had a set of 240,000 euros in funding from the National R & D of the Spanish period 2004-2007 (Ref. no. SEJ2006-05631-C05-01/SOCI).

The research was conducted during the years 2007 to 2009, although full implementation of the project lasted until October 2010, in order to properly comply with the commitments of dissemination of the results.

The project was carried in three phases, each of which raised different objectives:

First phase

The aim here was to create an inventory of all the codes and documents regarding ethical norms and regulations in Spain. This is a task which various scholars have attempted on previous occasions but this time it was a question of updating all existing material. The key here was to identify the current system of values and norms which we could consider as the “overriding ethical doctrine” in journalism.

The methodology adopted in this initial phase was content analysis. A comprehensive database was set up into which all documents were introduced (up to 77 at present). Simultaneously, a “journalistic ethics thesaurus” was built up which included all imaginable items regarding relevant values and opinions surrounding professional activity. This methodological instrument is especially useful for comparative legal usage. In this case it was not a question of comparing laws but rather codes. However methodological operability allowed an analogy between both to be established.

Each article or each epigraph of every document in the inventory is interrelated with the pertinent items in the thesaurus. This allows us to recover the information contained in the database according to different items. In this way, with a simple click of the mouse we could obtain an instant report on everything the codes mention regarding subjects as diverse as the spread of rumours, the presumption of innocence, conflict of interests or the news treatment of immigration or religious beliefs to name but a few examples.

Second phase

Here the aim was to contrast the results obtained in the first phase (the predominant value system in written deontological documents) with the ethical criteria sustained by professionals from the world of journalism.

In this phase a task of a more demographic nature was undergone and the methods considered most effective to obtain results was set into operation. On the one hand, a series of in-depth interviews with specially-chosen journalists and following predetermined parameters was carried out. Later on, a questionnaire of a quantitative character was distributed among all those journalists to whom the research team had access.

It should be noted also that this phase of the study was outsourced in the design methodology. In the case of field study in Catalonia methodological support equipment was provided by the Association of Sociologists and Political Scientists of Catalonia. He directed the research methods expert Luis Sáez.

In-depth interviews

For in-depth interviews took as its starting point the thesaurus database backbone built in the first phase of the investigation. It also took into account the list of items that appeared to be most pressing ethical according to documents collected in the same database: ethical codes more generally. material removed from the style books or books of the early means available drafting statutes, thematic recommendations issued by institutions or groups with apparent ascendancy over journalism, etc.

Based on this, developed a basic script or guidelines for the interviews. in Catalonia were interviewed 30 journalists, selected according to a number of variables that will certainly not be represented in the sample a wide range of the profession.

Survey of all professionals

Reports from in-depth interviews immediately became material for designing a quantitative survey. This happened in Catalonia, on-line and was completed by 1,198 journalists.

The number of responses exceeded expectations and said more than the quality of the sample, even in view of a multivariate analysis. This was possible not only highly reliable results on the many ethical questions about requesting opinion but also do a comprehensive demographic picture of the journalistic profession in Catalonia.

Third phase

Here we wanted to see how far existing rules and system of values referred to in previous phases are shared by the relevant public information.

In this third phase was continued doing field work, but now not a professional sector but with the entire population. Here also applied a two-pronged approach. First meetings were a series of focus groups, formed under the guidelines recommended by experts in this type of methodology. The results of these meetings allowed out and some conclusions that would be much tighter after the completion of a quantitative survey (applied over the phone) to a representative sample of citizens.

Where possible, efforts were made to the issues on which citizens were asked the same as those at play in the previous phase, when questioned were information professionals. However, this claim was dropped in some cases, when it noted that aspects of journalistic ethics, although they could and even should be of great interest for all consumers of the information currently are restricted by series of technical and professional circumstances that recently accessible to large sectors of the citizenry.

However, the contrast between the responses obtained by journalists and citizens is provided by one of the highlights of the entire investigation addressed.