Dr. Ann Hollifield with Dr. Matthias Karmasin from the University of Klagenfurt in Austria.

Georgia Researchers Discuss Effects of Media Competition At Conference in Germany on Media Ethics

Two University of Georgia professors joined with other specialists from Europe and the United States for a three-day discussion on media ethics in Eichstaett, Germany, in September, where most of the discussion focused on changes in ethical issues resulting from changes in the media landscape.

Drs. C. Ann Hollifield and Lee B. Becker from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia presented an overview of research they have conducted on the consequences of high level of media competition for limited advertising revenues.

Particularly in developing media markets, according to the Georgia researchers, high levels of media competition have been associated with decreased emphasis on the production of quality news products. In many cases, they argued, media organizations hired less well-trained journalists who lacked training in journalistic ethics as a result of competition.

These less well-trained journalist are more susceptible to bribes, more likely to write stories that favor powerful political and business interests, and more often select news that is sensational rather than news that helps to foster democratic development.

Others at the gathering expressed similar concerns about the threats to journalistic ethics resulting from changes in the economic and technological circumstances in which journalists currently work.

Among the questions raised was whether journalists who write for the Internet should hold themselves to a lesser standard of accuracy than journalists who write for print, since readers of the web can easily make corrections to errors by commenting on the story posted, while readers of the print version have fewer opportunities to respond to what is written.

The group uniformly rejected that suggestion.
The researchers gathered at the Katholische Universitaet Eichstaett Ingolstadt for the discussions, which were organized by Prof. Dr. Klaus Dieter Altmeppen of the School of Journalism at the German university. The conference began on Sept. 18.

The researchers came from a number of other German universities as well as from universities in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, and the United States. A number of research professionals associated with the media also were in attendance, as were students from the School of Journalism.

Drs. Hollifield and Becker told the group that they felt universities teaching journalists for the future should put additional emphasis on ethical training as one way to help distinguish those journalists from others working in the labor market.

Dr. Hollifield is Thomas C. Dowden Professor of Media Research and head of the Telecommunications Department in the Grady College at the University of Georgia. Dr. Becker is director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, the international outreach arm of the Grady College.

Prior to the meeting in Eichstaett, Drs. Hollifield and Becker attended a surprise gathering in Amsterdam for University of Amsterdam Professor Dr. Klaus Schoenbach. The gathering was organized on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

Dr. Becker had joined with German scholars Dr. Christina Holtz-Bacha and Gunter Reus in editing a book to honor Dr.Schoenbach. The three presented the book, called Wissenschaft mit Wirkung (Science with Effect), to Dr. Schoenbach at the gathering in the Old City Hall of Amsterdam.

About a dozen Dutch and German scholars joined Drs. Hollifield and Becker at the dinner gathering.