Book: Discourse and Responsibility in Professional Settings
Chapter: Chapter 12: Construing professional norms in journalism: Responsibility and risk reporting
The chapter explores the way journalists construe their sense of professional responsibility when they talk about practices of writing news, and particularly news about environmental risks. Reporting on risks is ubiquitous in the press and can be assumed to be influential both as agenda setting and as a source of public information and advice. The study discusses two salient norms of newswork, accuracy and autonomy, in relation to risk reporting. It analyses how journalists align themselves with such norms while also orienting to competing norms, such as the need to produce a competitive news product. The data consist of four interviews with environment and science journalists working in the UK quality press. The interview data are analysed from a discourse studies perspective. Salient tensions which emerge in the data are the tension between accuracy (e.g., avoiding exaggeration) and news values (e.g., the value of unambiguity) and the tension between autonomy and the need to produce stories which ‘interest the editor’. While ethical ideals are not construed as irrelevant, they are positioned as in conflict with local demands on writing, such as lack of time and editorial gatekeeping.