Pompeu Fabra University. Research group about Journalism

Journalists think about their proffesion

Journalists are not comfortable in their work. Economic and political tensions threaten the quality of a daily activity that they perceive to be driven by political and economic powers. Nor are they complacent with their peers. In general, journalists are wary of themselves. This is evident in a wide journalistic ethics research conducted by the Research Group in Journalism and explained in greater detail within this website.

For starters, they doubt the very principles of the profession. Objectivity is considered not to exist but they should strive to write honestly. News sources defend their interests, seek notoriety and therefore the information they offer must be contrasted at every stage. The sources which most journalists trust are NGOs and scientists.

Despite a certain scepticism surrounding their profession, journalists still defend some of the classic principles of the trade. They still believe that illegal means to obtain news and information should not be used and feel news should not be mixed with views except for those journalists of reputed prestige. They also believe that the nationality, ethnicity or sexual orientation of a news actor should only be revealed when it is necessary to understand the story. They also feel strongly that the presumption of innocence of the accused must be defended in all cases.

The profession is maintained by a certain idealism threatened by the onslaught of daily routines. On the one hand, journalists think they should resist the demands of political power in their work, although they are fully aware that they cannot avoid the pressure. They argue for example that they should not provide more information than the Opposition and should not interview a prime minister when he so requests but consider they must follow the government policy on terrorism or during emergency situations. The contradiction regarding political power is considered one of the unresolvable problems of the profession.

Journalism depends on sponsors and advertisers, as everyone knows. Nothing strange there if it were not for the fact that journalists explain that the influence of these companies is excessive in certain areas such as economy, sports and culture. They themselves are under direct pressure from some companies who seek to capture their attention and flatter them with attention and gifts. Journalists are aware of the risk posed by receiving certain gifts, and generally feel more comfortably if gifts are offered equally to other peers and not just to a select few.

They also believe in divulging the ideas of any protagonist of a story even if it is against the Constitution or the majority religion, but are completely divided on how information given over to terrorism should be treated, a sensitive issue regarding which journalists abandon their independence as research shows that most prefer to follow governmental instructions.

But they also share some clear ideas. They agree that journalists should not pursue public figures as does the sensationalist tabloid press, which is generally not considered to be real journalism. Nor should abuse be made of the images of victims of tragedies except when showing the consequences of terror in an instructive way to citizens. However, they are more permissive when it comes to using words or expressions that might seem in poor taste.

The emergence of younger journalists, trained under a more democratic news system, does nothing but worsen the image of the profession itself. Newcomers are more sceptical and scathing, are less reticent on certain issues and distance themselves further from ethical concerns. As regards the increased presence of women in newsrooms, the opposite effect can be seen to take place: their positions show greater concern regarding professional issues.