Authors: Eberwein, Tobias
Evers, Huub
Title: Can a million toothless tigers make a difference?
Other Titles: Potentials and pitfalls of web-based accountability processes in German journalism
Language (ISO): en
Abstract: While trust in German journalism is being challenged by recurrent journalistic misbehavior, the necessity of a functioning media accountability landscape is more pressing than ever. In fact, the German media system offers a notable variety of self-regulatory instruments that aim at safeguarding the quality of journalistic reporting. Their effects, however, seem to be limited: The German Press Council is taunted as a “toothless tiger” because of its lack of sanctioning power; media journalism has to cope with its inevitable problems of self-referentiality; and accountability mechanisms on the level of the newsroom are only slowly gaining ground. This report discusses the potentials and pitfalls of web-based accountability processes in German journalism. Can they complement traditional instruments of journalistic self-regulation and compensate their deficiencies? Can they accomplish a better involvement of civil society actors in the debate about journalistic quality? As an analysis of the current data on Internet usage in Germany shows, the conditions are quite favorable: The Internet has a rising significance in people’s everyday life; however, the disposition to actively participate in the production of online contents is still low in most parts of the society – just as the willingness of many newsrooms to support user integration. Qualitative expert interviews, which were conducted for this report, demonstrate that a considerable diversity of online practices fostering media accountability in Germany has been developing in recent years. Different case studies substantiate the assumption that the multitude of new voices, which is characteristic for the novel kind of media criticism in the Social Web, may well have a positive impact on practical journalism. At the same time, it becomes clear that recent innovations in media accountability are far from being a panacea for the deficits of traditional journalistic self-regulation. Particularly, the editorial handling of journalistic mistakes still leaves much room for improvements. The case of user comments on online news stories shows that web-based accountability processes may even lead to new ethical problems which have not been tackled systematically so far.
Subject Headings: Accountability
Social Media
Subject Headings (RSWK): Deutschland
Soziale Software
Issue Date: 2011-06-01
Provenance: MediaAcT/Erich Brost Institute
Appears in Collections:MediaACT

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