Journalism ethics: Best practices in Asian media

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will identify and synthesise ethical best practices in Asian journalism, through an analysis of leading news organisations’ internal policies and codes of practice. The study will be based on interviews with senior editors and/or publishers, analysis of written guidelines where available, and case studies of ethically challenging situations that illustrate how the organisations’ principles are applied in practice. Twelve news organisations will be selected from 9-10 Asian markets (including mainland China and Hong Kong SAR).

The project fills a gap in both media scholarship and professional development. Comparative studies of non-Western journalism have investigated norms and practices that typify different societies. These illuminate the general landscape. But they do not highlight outcrops of professional excellence, which are invariably confined to a minority of organisations. Another limitation of such studies is that the unit of analysis is the individual journalist, whereas organisational settings are known to be the major influences on journalists’ ethical conduct.

This study will overcome these limitations by focusing on organisations that are regarded as exemplary – even if by no means perfect – in their pursuit of ethical, high-quality journalism. It will allow us to arrive at empirically grounded normative statements about professional practice in Asia. It will also help us identify challenges – political, economic and organisational – that stand in the way of ethical practice for quality media that aspire to high standards. The comparative approach – covering different types of media organisation as well as diverse political systems and markets – will allow us to distinguish norms that are relatively universal, from those that depend on context, such as the organisation’s political environment.

The study will focus on pertinent ethical dilemmas that the profession faces today: (1) how to deal with conflicts of interest, involving owners, advertisers or individual journalists; (2) hybrid, disguised forms of advertising, which are integrated seamlessly into the editorial mix at the risk of deceiving audiences; (3) audience metrics that allow media organisations to respond to audience tastes, but which may dilute the role of editorial judgment; and (4) how to handle hate speech and other forms of extreme expression, which have proliferated on online forums. In addition to providing a unique contribution to our scholarly understanding of Asian journalism, the project will generate knowledge that is immediately transferable to industry, both directly, through sharing of best practices, and indirectly, by arming journalism educators with compelling examples from the region.
Effective start/end date1/10/1531/03/18


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