Pompeu Fabra University. Research group about Journalism

Citizens think about journalists

Citizens are much more demanding than journalists when it comes to dealing with information. They expect more dedication and more results in day-to-day work. They believe that objectivity in news reporting is possible and necessary, and consider that a lack of quality information has usually less to do with the skills of the professionals than with the pressures they have to support. Power belongs to those who block the information from fully reaching citizens. Journalists are not therefore able to overcome these pressures and end up giving in to them.

On the whole, citizens are very wary of the information they receive. This is evident in a wide journalistic ethics research conducted by the Research Group in Journalism and explained in greater detail within this website.

Journalists should even resort to illegal means to get precise information in cases of political corruption, drug trafficking or especially serious crimes. Citizens do not care that much about mixing information and opinion, something they see more as a technicality, but do agree with journalists when not deeming it necessary to describe the nationality, ethnicity or sexual orientation of the protagonist of a information unless it is essential to understand the news story. Only half of the citizens understand that the presumption of innocence must be maintained while for others this is a minor issue, in the same way that they demand as much information as possible about those trials that arouse interest.

Citizens, as with journalists, do not want journalism to depend on political power and are opposed to the idea that the government be reported on more than the opposition. However they do agree that government guidelines regarding cases of terrorism should be voiced , except in the Basque Country, a real exception in these cases.

Such little hope does the citizen deposit in the profession that they consider that the journalist has no way of avoiding pressures from sponsors or advertisers, and actually works under serious restraint. The scepticism does not stop there. Any gift that is offered to a reporter should be rejected, even marketing merchandise. There is no such thing as friendly gifts and people believe that some ideas and opinions should not be disseminated in the media if they violate human rights, express racism, xenophobia or defend so-called terrorist groups.

It is precisely on the question of terrorism where we can observe the differences between the ethical values ​​of journalists and the public. The public expects reporters to follow government guidelines, and also differ from reporters when defending the privacy of victims as a reason for not showing explicit images of the attacks. In no case do they argue that reporters know how to manage for themselves the need to show pictures of dead bodies.

Differences do not end here. Citizens reject the practice of hounding public figures on the street, while the professionals, without justifying the media harassment, put it in terms of urgency and the need for information. They agree on the subject of avoiding the showing of pictures and publishing information about people who have committed suicide, although in the case of violence against women, professionals prefer to report these stories in order to make society aware while citizens choose to prioritize the right to privacy of the victims. On the other hand, citizens are less permissive than journalists with words and expressions of bad taste, even with the cartoons and drawings or jokes with sexual content.

Implicitly, citizens show the reticence generated by the profession. They feel they have often heard of the pressures under which journalists perform daily and are critical with the usual results. They can understand that journalists do not behave as heroes who daily face up to established power, but do not forgive them for taking advantage of their proximity to certain economic and political spheres of power. Daily journalism does not convince its audience because people do not consider journalists to be able to face up to the pressures or temptations of the profession.