Portals: Customer Service or Unethical Behavior?

Abstract

This paper examines the shifting role that journalism ethics play in the relationship between editorial and promotional content in the presentation of online news.

The literature reviewed demonstrated that many news media have experienced a shift in goals from serving citizens to satisfying consumers. This shift has led to practices mixing promotional content with editorial content, the rationale being that this mixture does a better job of serving the needs of the consumers of the media product.

However, this market-driven model runs contrary to traditional media ethical theory. Historically, media ethics have been driven by professional peer pressure, and a shift to audience-driven ethics might include the abolishment of the editorial/advertising line, since consumers might be better served by integrated media packaging.

This practice of blending news, opinion and advertising together into packets organized by topic has further removed online journalism from the traditional model of journalism ethical discourse, by introducing the principles of business ethical discourse. The seeming incompatibility of these two sets of norms is the heart of the conflict.

Based on an interview with Grant Tait, several general conclusions were reached. First of all, Austin360 is extremely aware of the audience and their habits and this knowledge has a greater impact on content production of Austin360 than in traditional print media. The staff of Austin360 values business ethical principles as well as journalistic ethical principles and tries to meet both standards. The staff of Austin360 thinks their practices are more ethical than traditional media and that the staff's jobs requires a greater understanding of journalism ethics than comparable jobs in traditional media.

In addition, four key ethical areas of ethical concern were identified for portal sites clear distinctions between advertising and information content, nonexistent the method of presentation for information gathered from external sites, the impact of the audience on content selection and issues dealing with audience-generated material.

Finally, the practice of portal journalism was incorporated into a model displaying the tensions between social responsibility and investor (market-driven) responsibility.

 


Abstract

Introduction and Literature Review

Case Study

Conclusions

Reference List

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