Sunday, March 13, 2016

Ethics in Cyber Journalism: New Waves of Applied Ethics in Journalism (Case Studies at News Portal in Indonesia)

People have always been interested in the news, which is described as “new information about a subject of some public interest that is shared with some portion of the public” (Stephens, 2006:2). The earliest forms of news were spoken ones, shared in coffeehouses or shouted throughout the village. After the news in written form began to exist in the fifth century B.C., news distribution progressed to written tablets, Roman acta, occasional newsletters, and the regular newspaper which arrived in early 17th century (Stephens, 2006:131). In today’s information society where communications technologies have acquired new importance, the Internet is a new news medium which enables us to retrieve news easily.
From spoken to written to printed and then electronic news, the general principle of “the fastest medium with the largest potential audience will be the messenger of the most breaking-news” applies. Today the news race is being won by broadcast media and the Internet (Stephens, 2006:47).
According to Downing et al. (2004:4), compared to traditional mass media, the Internet is “much more productive and flexible and more accessible to more people as senders and receivers”. The Internet has improved the way news is collected, sorted, and distributed, and the way news is made available to readers.  A survey done by the International Telecommunication Union and Nielsen shows that as of 2006 there were 964,271,700 Internet users in the world (ITU, 2005) and 36.5% of all active Internet users read online news (Nielsen in Sigmund, 26 October 2006). That is why it is winning the race.
The Internet, which Stephens called an “electronically amplified news organ”, helps readers to access the huge volume of available information. This insight lends to the definition of online journalism as “the delivery of news collected, sorted, and distributed through the Internet for the readers to consume efficiently” (Stephens, 2006:296-7). Downing et al. (2004:4) believe that currently there is need to see usage patterns of the new media to understand the social effects expected. However, to discuss the social effects and consequences, the context in which media consumption takes place needs to be taken into account (Taylor and Willis, 1999:181). It is also necessary to consider the factors that affect readers as they consume media products. These factors relate to the readers’ sense of identity, which changes as social interactions progress; they also influence on-going communication (Thompson, 2003:27, 55, 105). In the case of Indonesia, Hill and Sen (in Ferdinand 2000:119) suggest that the use of the Internet in Indonesia’s new democracy be seen within the holistic and complex process of “the emergence of an Indonesian ‘public sphere’ on the Internet”. 
“Public sphere” is the space whereby the public discourse and the formulation of citizen’s political understanding take place. Within this space, expressions and opinions are exchanged forming a web of discourses, and it is where journalism plays a major role (McNair, 2003:20). Habermas defined public sphere as: “a network for communicating information and points of view (i.e., opinions expressing affirmative or negative attitudes); the streams of communication are, in the process, filtered and synthesized in such a way that they coalesce into bundles of topically specified public opinions”, and play the role of an intermediary between the political system and the private sectors and functional systems (Young, 2000:170). Although this concept of public sphere by Habermas is very useful in understanding journalism, its focus on “people” is different from the sense of community which is the focus of Benedict Anderson’s theory. According to Anderson, “community” implies a common emotional identity, develops a feeling of fellowship on the basis of (imagined) interaction, and establishes social membership and national consciousness (Schudson, 2003:69). Jakob Oetama (2005:42) – an Indonesian senior journalist – is convinced that it is particularly important for the Indonesian press to continue putting in the effort to turn “rakyat” (people), into “warga” (community). In this context, the notion of public sphere is best complemented with the “imagined communities” theory – which will be described later in this chapter – particularly because Indonesia is a 4 large community and the larger a community is, the more it will depend on the imaginary (Laclau in Cheah and Culler, 2003:24). In a democratic community, journalism plays an important role by holding the key to a democracy’s checks-and-balances. The importance of the role of the journalist is best defined by Cable News Network (CNN) war correspondent Christiane Amanpour: “What we do and say and show really matters… It has an effect on our local communities, on our states, on our country, and on the state of the world” (Anderson, 2004:xi). In fact, journalists have such an impactprovoking role that the purpose of their work needs to be examined. Gripshrud (in Schudson, 2003:14) puts it this way: “The core purpose of journalism is and should be about producing and distributing serious information and debate on central social, political, and cultural matters. Journalists regulate much of what the public gets to know about the world they inhabit, and this activity is vital to a functioning democracy.” The inclusion of “democracy” in defining journalism has been a subject of controversy. However, there is no way around it because one is unable to practice journalism freely without democracy (Anderson, 2004:225). Therefore, my use of Gripsrud’s quote is suitable not only because this study examines journalism – particularly online journalism – but also because it does so within Indonesia as a democratic society, in a time of political evolution.

Theoritical Reflections
During the past three decades (1970-2000), global media have gone through major technological and structural transformations leading to significant penetrations of national media systems.  This has taken place through direct broadcast satellites (DBS), low orbit satellites, digital telephony, the Internet, as well as such micromedia as audiotapes, videotapes, CDs, computer laptops and palmtops, and wireless telephony and Internet.  Global communication has virtually created a world without borders.  While the commercial systems dominate the content of news and entertainment, government systems attempt—often unsuccessfully—to control the flows by censorship within their own territorial sovereignties.
Three technological trends characterize the global media, including digitalization, convergence, and miniaturization.  The technological transformations have led to three structural consequences, including globalization, localization, and fragmentation.  Structural changes have in turn led to three new cultural patterns, including transnationalization, tribalization, and democratization.
            The historicism of a digital age is founded upon the promise of interoperability between all forms of media that rely on digital code. As digital formats for storing and circulating information become a basic standard that ranges across computing, media, and telecommunications, a digital ontology is seen to be the basis for a monomedia world. In his 1999 book, The Internet Challenge to Television, Bruce Owens made a prophecy of convergence—that through digitalization, the Internet will be all, and television, telephone, and computers will converge on the Internet. But there are two versions of this mono-media thesis. Although some, such as Owens, Negroponte, and Gilder, see digitalization as the basis for convergence, others such as Henry Jenkins and Friedrich Kittler see the digital platform as the basis for interoperability between discrete kinds of media for which digital code has simply enabled a common language. According to Kittler, digital media has become a master ontology that determines our situation. First it was film, the phonograph, and the typewriter that appropriated the power of the written text. Film and the phonograph record images and sounds, while the typewriter usurps the eye's control of the hand. Current electronic technologies are bringing media back together, and Kittler suggests that in the future, all media will be connected on a digital basis, completely erasing the very notion of medium itself. For Jenkins, in his book Convergence Culture, the interoperability of new media provides much more active participation in media. He argues that whereas old consumers of media were more isolated, new consumers of convergent media are more socially connected because they can upload their own content and choose from a much wider array of fragmented information, including being able to choose between corporate media and grassroots media. From an economic standpoint, Brian Winston has also argued that in recent years, digitalization and technological convergence has become a rhetorical justification for further deregulation in the communications and media industries by downplaying capital concentration as a cause. For him, mergers and takeovers are not just about plundering technological opportunities, they are also driven by the monopolization in a single industry or even a tendency for the rate of profit to fall in one industry, making diversification attractive. From a technological standpoint, Winston is an interesting writer in the way he produces a kind of history of the present around digitalization by showing that media convergence has always been a reality of the history of communications. Winston argues that digitalization is not required for convergence. Rather there have been other sufficient means of convergence based on analogue signals that have allowed interchangeability between medium functions for many years. These are largely centered around the convergence between wired and wireless. For example, radio was first used for point-to-point communication, and the telephone was used as a form of network broadcasting in its early years. So today, Winston scoffs at the hubris of new media convergence that marvels that people can listen to the radio over their digital televisions or make telephone calls on their computers.


A revolution in ethics

A media revolution is transforming, fundamentally and irrevocably, the nature of journalism and its ethics. The means to publish is now in the hands of citizens, while the internet encourages new forms of journalism that are interactive and immediate. Our media ecology is a chaotic landscape evolving at a furious pace.  Professional journalists share the journalistic sphere with tweeters, bloggers, citizen journalists, and social media users. Amid every revolution, new possibilities emerge while old practices are threatened. Today is no exception. The economics of professional journalism struggles as audiences migrate online. Shrinkage of newsrooms creates concern for the future of journalism. Yet these fears also prompt experiments in journalism, such as non-profit centers of investigative journalism. A central question is to what extent existing media ethics is suitable for today’s and tomorrow’s news media that is immediate, interactive and “always on” – a journalism of amateurs and professionals. Most of the principles were developed over the past century, originating in the construction of professional, objective ethics for mass commercial newspapers in the late 19th century. We are moving towards a mixed news media – a news media citizen and professional journalism across many media platforms. This new mixed news media requires a new  mixed media ethics – guidelines that apply to amateur and professional whether they blog, Tweet, broadcast or write for newspapers. Media ethics needs to be rethought and reinvented for the media of today, not of yesteryear.

Tensions on two levels
The changes challenge the foundations of media ethics. The challenge runs deeper than debates about one or another principle, such as objectivity. The challenge is greater than specific problems, such as how newsrooms can verify content from citizens. The revolution requires us to rethink assumptions. What can ethics mean for a profession that must provide instant news and analysis; where everyone with a modem is a publisher?
The media revolution has created ethical tensions on two levels.
  • On the first level, there is a tension between traditional journalism and online journalism. The culture of traditional journalism, with its values of accuracy, pre-publication verification, balance, impartiality, and gate-keeping, rubs up against the culture of online journalism which emphasizes immediacy, transparency, partiality, non-professional journalists and post-publication correction.
  • On the second level, there is a tension between parochial and global journalism. If journalism has global impact, what are its global responsibilities? Should media ethics reformulate its aims and norms so as to guide a journalism that is now global in reach and impact? What would that look like?
The challenge for today’s media ethics can be summarized by the question: Whither ethics in a world of multi-media, global journalism? Media ethics must do more than point out these tensions. Theoretically, it must untangle the conflicts between values. It must decide which principles should be preserved or invented. Practically, it should provide new standards to guide online or offline journalism.

Indonesia Media Online- Journalism Ethics: on Progress
Ethical Problem and Discussion

            Ward stated that internet presence as the new media with all its practical implications, raises new tensions in the ethical realm. At least, the issue of journalistic ethics appears in two level. First, the ethical issues that arise when journalism today mixed to the interactive reader. Secondly, a new style of online journalism growing in Indonesia is very typical. The New style of journalism is unique and different from the model of the old journalism which has been in force in the print media and television. Beyond that, an old issue of the intersection media business is still prominent.
            Online media open freely conversations spaces for public on the comments page provided to the any news. As mentioned above, the spaces of  interactive is indeed the online media. But, we also see that the spaces of  interaction also has a business perspective. Well, either what mechanisms imposed on the editorial staff any incoming reader comments, which certainly we often see comments reader feels rude, full of sarcasm, and lack of manners.
            The second ethical issue is the problem of accuracy. Bill Kovack speed and Rosentiel stated that the obligation of journalism is the truth. "The main principle of  journalism is not partial truth is that most distinguishes it from all other forms of communication, "Furthermore, Kovach and Rosenstiel said,
in pursuit of the truth, the essence of journalism is discipline of verification. The current era of high technology brings journalism resembles conversation, very similar the first journalism. "The function of journalism is not fundamentally changed even though we have entered an era digital. The technique used may be different, but principles which underline remain the same. The first one is done journalist is verified. Verification is a prerequisite for absolute accuracy. Therefore, no matter how and forms, online media is the media of verification. A related problem, created by new media, is how to handle errors and corrections when reports and commentary are constantly being updated. Increasingly, journalists are blogging ‘live’ about sports games, news events, and breaking stories. Inevitably, when one works at this speed, errors are made, from misspelling words to making factual errors. Should news organizations go back and correct all of these mistakes which populate mountains of material? Or should they correct errors later and not leave a trace of the original mistake –what is called “unpublishing?”
            Besides striking about the accuracy, fast and flowing principle also alluded to the old principle of journalism the matter is about of balance. This news item is listed in 3 KEWI: "Indonesian journalists to respect the presumption of innocence, not to confuse fact with opinion, balanced and always examine the veracity of the information, and not plagiarism. Article 3 KEJ also confirms that: "Indonesian Journalists always test information, preach a balanced way, not mixing facts and opinions to judge, and to apply the principles the presumption of innocence. Described in KEJ, test of information means to check and recheck on the information is correct.
Meanwhile, balance principle is providing space or time reporting to the respective parties proportionally. Typically, the print media broadcast news. The balance in the rules contained therein.  The online media, the principle of balance in their news not appeared in the news, but in principle the update, piecemeal, or broken. So, news the balance typically does not appear in the news first, but the second report, the third, and so on. Ethical problem is often in the news tendentious are potentially detrimental to the certain public opinion has been formed while those who feel cornered was not getting opportunity to clarify the content of the news. News verification of views at the next opportunity, to who feel cornered assess their clarification late. Over this issue, the online media is often blamed news unbalanced load.
Partial or partisan journalism comes in at least two kinds: One kind is an opinion journalism that enjoys commenting upon events and issues, with or without verification. Another form is partisan journalism which uses media as a mouthpiece for political parties and movements. To some extent, we are seeing a revival (or return) to an opinion/partisan journalism that was popular before the rise of objective reporting in the early 1900s.Both opinion and partisan journalism have long roots in journalism history. However, their revival in an online world raises serious ethical conundrums for current media ethics. Should objectivity be abandoned by all journalists? Which is best for a vigorous and healthy democracy – impartial journalism or partisan journalism?
To make matters more contentious, some of the new exponents of opinion and impartial journalism not only question objectivity, they question the long-standing principle that journalists should be independent from the groups they write about. For example, some partisan journalists reject charges of a journalistic “conflict of interest” when they accept money from groups, or make donations to political parties. Economically, mainstream newsrooms who uphold traditional principles such as impartiality increasingly feel compelled to move toward a more opinionated or partisan approach to news and commentary. To be impartial is said to be boring to viewers. Audiences are said to be attracted to strong opinion and conflicts of opinion.
Even where newsrooms enforce the rules of impartiality — say by suspending a journalist for a conflict of interest or partial comment — they fail to get full public support. Some citizens and groups complain that newsroom restraints on what analysts and reporters can say about the groups they cover is censorship.
Is it good, that more and more, journalists no longer stand among the opposing groups in society and try to inform the public fairly about their perspectives but rather become part of the groups seeking to influence public opinion?
Other issues that have received less attention to online media managers are the matter content aggregators. Simply put, content aggregators are sites that steaming various information from various other sites. He did not produce, only collect. Technically, news accumulation practice this can be done automatically through RSS systems and the like. That matters is when the accumulator sites then gain from something that is not produced themselves.

            An ethic for conduct can be public in two ways — in terms of topic and in terms of justification. An ethic is public in topic if its role is to discuss and evaluate conduct and policies with significant public impact, such as an ethic for police actions during protests or an ethic for allowing terminally ill patients to die. An ethics is public in justification if it is required, ultimately, to justify its norms by reference to some conception of the public good, not individual goods. Often, types of conduct have a public ethic in both senses.
            Has the media revolution undermined the idea of journalism ethics as based on a public interpretation of journalism’s role in democracy? The answer is no. Journalism’s over-all impact increases, not decreases. What is different is that many citizen journalists do not fall under the professional codes. It is difficult to say what public code should cover both professionals and non-professionals. But such difficulties do not invalidate the idea that some public grounding for journalism ethics is needed. The task is to reinterpret public journalism ethics for a global media world.
            These points lead me to my main conclusion — journalism ethics does not “belong” to journalists. Journalism ethics belongs to the public. Responsible journalists must formulate principles that meet the “media needs” of citizens in self-governing democracies. There are at least six media needs: Informational needs: Citizens cannot be vigilant and informed without access to a rich informational soup of facts and reports about their world. Explanatory needs: Citizens need more than facts. They need context and causal explanations for properly understanding facts and events. ‘Perspectival enrichment’ needs: Citizens need informed commentary, criticism, and multiple points of view on the information they obtain, and on the state of their society. Advocational and reform needs: Citizens should be free to go beyond commentary to use media to advocate for causes, and push for reforms, or to hear the positions of advocates. Participatory needs: Citizens should have the ability to participate in a meaningful fashion in the discussions and debates, and the sharing of facts and analysis. Dialogic needs: Citizens should have the opportunity to be part of reasonable and informed dialogue on common concerns, and not be subject to disrespectful attacks. Therefore, journalists have no special authority to simply announce ex cathedra, as individuals, as users of a specific platforms, or as a collective, what values they honor. They must show how their values are well-grounded in the six media needs. Of course, they can make such announcements but their assertions will lack any social force unless the journalists show how their principles promote the public good, and not just their subjective or idiosyncratic aims. Subjectivism can damage a free journalism. If citizens are told by journalists that they make up their own ethics, then citizens may conclude that tougher press laws are needed. “Ethics as subjective” makes a hash of the idea of journalistic self-regulation. The latter refers to a practice-wide accountability for conduct. The “self” in “self-regulation” does not mean that each journalist regulates their conduct on their own.


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