On the values guiding the French practice of journalism: Interviews with thirteen war correspondents

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

Abstract

What are the values guiding the French practice of journalism? What is the place of objectivity among these values? These questions were asked of 13 war correspondents working for eight of the leading French newspapers. While objectivity is rejected as either an unattainable standard or an undesirable norm, it appears that a definition of objectivity is lacking and that this notion is often mistaken for neutrality. Three different conceptions of objectivity-as-neutrality emerge from the interviewees' discourses: as a separation between facts and commentaries, as cautiousness in labeling and as a balance between the parties. Can or should one of these conceptions serve as a guideline in the daily practice of journalism? The interviewees seem to be divided on this question and several propose moral values such as honesty or modesty as alternatives. The reference to moral values in turn proves problematic insofar as the focus on the journalists' attitudes or intentions fails to address responsibility for highly consequential actions. In the end, when discussing specific dilemmas that they themselves have faced, most of the journalists quote accuracy and fairness as criteria for the evaluation of journalistic performance. 'Etre juste' - meaning both to be accurate (justesse) and to be fair (justice) - is what is expected of a professional journalist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-310
Number of pages18
JournalJournalism
Volume11
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Accuracy
  • Fairness
  • Journalistic profession
  • Objectivity
  • Standards
  • Values
  • War correspondents

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