Interview with Colin Porlezza, communications researcher at the Università della Svizzera italiana and EJO collaborator.
Q: Are there successful examples of media accountability in Switzerland?
It depends on what one understands as a successful example. Is the existence of a press council already a success – although it has only limited possibilities to impose a sanction? Or can one regard the existence of ombudsmen as positive, even though they are hardly present in public? The infrastructure of journalistic quality management is relatively broad and consistent in Switzerland. A quite successful example is the way TV and radio licenses are allocated – certain quality standards are prerequisites to receiving one. Furthermore, the quality awareness seems to be in general quite high in Switzerland, although this can’t replace concrete quality management. Another current and promising example of quality management is certainly the revival of media journalism on the Internet. While it is slowly but surely becoming extinct in the “old” media, it is experiencing – thanks to several “watchdogs,” or better, “watchblogs” – an Indian summer online.
Q: Do you believe there should be a new ethical code specifically for online journalism?
The Swiss Press Council examined this question in the year 2000 and decided that the ethical code for traditional journalism should be applied online. Also, on the Internet journalistic content and advertisement should be clearly separated, and commercial links should be made transparent. It is a problem, however, that the Internet is global and can be used everywhere.
National ethical codes have a limited reach unless they are cooperating internationally which in my opinion wouldn’t be easy to manage. It is becoming more and more difficult to differentiate between journalistic and alternative products such as blogs on the Internet and thus difficult to implement an ethical code for online journalism.
Q: What has been one of the most important innovations in Swiss journalism in the recent past?
One of the most important innovations in journalism in Switzerland is optimized cooperation from print and online media. Although there is still room for improvement, most newspaper companies have stopped copying and pasting their articles from the newspaper to the website. Many newsrooms have integrated “news desks” that have valorized the online departments. Besides, the continuously growing online community provides a freshness in the media landscape. The often inventive contributions also reveal some interests and non-transparent interdependencies in the media industry that would otherwise remain covert.