When Self-Regulation Works

August 11, 2012 • Ethics and Quality • by

It’s not every day that an American trade journal like the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) shows serious interest in something happening outside the U.S.

Recently, however, the journal  dedicated a long story to Scandinavian countries. In a piece titled “Self-Regulation Done Right,” CJR provided a shining overview, including many examples of how journalistic self-control and monitoring can help build credibility for journalism – assuming there’s adequate reportage covering  the work of press councils.

Such efforts on behalf of the media are frequently lacking in Austria and Germany, while Switzerland seems to come closest to the Scandinavian ideal in the German-speaking world. The trilingual Swiss press council contributes its share to establishing a greater sense of quality consciousness in newsrooms. Yet many Swiss newsrooms remain well aware that the press council needs the support of journalists to secure a fluid newsgathering environment.

CJR’s report on Nordic countries is too good to be true in Austria and Germany: “The news outlets voluntarily submit themselves to the council’s judgements because it shows their audience that they are responsible, accountable, and fair…Newspapers print a small note, and radio and television broadcasters read a short message on air.”

Unfortunately, it is not at all easy to develop a similar culture in Germany and Austria which combines openmindedness toward self criticism with striving for credibility. To the contrary, in Vienna yellow press papers like the powerful Kronenzeitung and more recently Österreich are actually trying to intimidate and to sue the press council.


Published in Die Furche, Nr. 32 v. 9.8.2012


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