Saturday, April 10, 2010

What's up, Internet?

Don't look at me in that tone of voice. It's only been eight months. Do you know how little time that is, in the scheme of things? That's not even enough time to pop out a kid! Or a thesis, which is the burgeoning birth process in MY life, at least. Journalism is still very nearly in a free-fall, don't fret. Plenty of time to comment on the insanity of what is quickly becoming my universe.

My hiatus from this blog coincides with actually getting a job. In late August last year, the paper I was blogging from as freelance writer/volunteer intern coordinator actually hired me, as assistant news editor - a half-time position that allowed me to stay in my graduate program.

Now, just 11 months after quitting my job as a barista and going back to school, I am a month away from completing the credit requirements for my master's degree. I have taken one weekend off from my job at the paper in the last year, and that was to go to Dublin (a trip planned even before I was hired).

I do not recommend attempting this at home.

But! Dedication to this blog has festered and erupted anew today, and as I gear up for my thesis - a bastardization of philosophy, communication theory, business ethics, and the down-and-dirty heritage of journalism - I hope you will join me in my journey.

Yesterday, I submitted a proposal to present research at a graduate symposium at the end of April. The discussion will center on an argument that business is not inherently amoral, and what this means for journalism.

I think I've answered one of the questions that was theoretically pressing to me: can journalism operate ethically, as a business? The only alternative seemed to be nonprofit journalism, which would suffer from donor bias and hamstrung ambition, likely among other things.

This is a theoretical approach, rather than practical. But business practices are influenced by theory - economic, ethical, and otherwise. I believe that not only is business inherently subject to practice rules that operate as ethical constraints (example: when an auditor covers up financial problems, for kickbacks or whatever other reason, she is failing not because she is not complying with laws, but because she is no longer auditing), but that conversely, the limits placed on the ethical demands of journalism because it is a trade create a balance between its moral mandate and its business needs.

Mouthful, huh? There's more to the discussion, which I will no doubt be breaking down more in the near future - and I'll be commenting on further examples in the media/business world. But in general, my immediate question is: how? I think that the business of journalism does have inherent ethical practice rules - but that these are limited. Limited by what, though? By constraints of profitability? By what can reasonably be expected of journalism? And limited how? How can we tell when journalism has stepped past what it is supposed to do?

One piece of my project will be defining norms for journalism - and the first step will be figuring out what exactly that means.

As always, I welcome your feedback on any aspect of the media industry!

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