Journalistic challenges of the public and private: Exploring professional and ethical norms

Jeremy Stevens, Glen Fuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Journalism has recently been described as a “profession in a permanent process of becoming” (Deuze & Witschge, 2017, p. 13). This paper investigates a decade of commentary (2006-2015) from media industry ‘grey literature’ that engages with the resultant on-going rearticulation of professional norms. We focus on the ethical challenges that develop as a result of changes in part wrought by social media-based communications technologies. Our ‘grey literature’ archive consists of 1156 articles published through US-based Poynter Institute, Nieman Lab, and Nieman Reports. Using a ‘hybrid methodology’ (Lewis, Zamith, & Hermida, 2013), we carry out a close reading discourse analysis of the commentary. Our initial goal was to understand the shift in the character of discourse from one organised around a single set of changes (“the digital”, “the internet”, etc.) to a more multi-dimensional appreciation of such changes. The character of critical commentary itself changes at various points in the archive to engage with problems that are now familiar; these include commentary about the verification of information and the ‘truth’; sourcing techniques; and the blurring of public and private spheres, and changing behaviours of publicity. Indeed, these ethical and professional challenges for journalists are not new for the most part. Our key finding is that there is a struggle to critically and reflexively rearticulate ‘traditional’ norms to adapt to the shifting dynamics of online networked media and their ethical and professional implications. In an era of ongoing change, this normative reflex therefore demands further attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-125
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Journalism Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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