Responsible media is a partner to its reader

The Guidelines for Journalists are the core of responsible journalism. Openness, transparency and a dialogue-based relationship between reader and journalist have also become core elements of journalistic responsibility. 

Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand in the media business. Media has the most central role in implementing and promoting freedom of speech. Media’s task is to exercise this freedom with the needs of readers and citizens as the starting point, in a manner that is socially meaningful and ethical. Media bears its responsibility by acting as a watchdog holding those in power accountable and by highlighting social issues. Therefore, journalism must be reliable and independent, promote freedom of speech and act in an ethically transparent manner.

The Guidelines for Journalists are the core of responsible journalism. Openness, transparency and a dialogue-based relationship between reader and journalist have also become key elements of journalistic responsibility. Openness allows the reader to better understand the source of information and the ethical choices made by the journalists, thereby critically assessing various media content.

Ethical principles guide the operations of Alma Media’s various media

Alma Media’s newspapers and their online services are committed to not only legislation and regulations, but also their own newspaper-specific ethical policies. These ethical policies may be stricter than the Guidelines for Journalists published by the Council for Mass Media (CMM), which form the foundation of ethical regulation in the Finnish media industry. In order to ensure independence, the newspaper-specific policies also include guidelines related to, for instance, editors’ relationships to advertisers. CMM decisions, reader feedback, reader panels and requests for corrections are all metrics for reliability and responsible journalism and they are discussed at the newspaper level under the leadership of the Editor-in-Chief. In 2010, the CMM issued a total of 73 decisions, of which 15 pertained to Alma Media’s various media. 60% of these decisions were condemnatory. The number of decisions pertaining to Alma Media newspapers was lower than in the previous year, but the percentage of condemnatory decisions increased.

Towards more transparent, open and interactive media

The core values and impacts of journalism were the subject of considerable public dialogue in 2010. This only served to strengthen the commitment of Alma Media’s newspapers and digital services to open and transparent content. For example, Aamulehti exercises its commitment to responsibility and openness by having a dedicated Readers Editor, by publishing reader feedback openly and by disclosing the newspaper’s ethical guidelines on its website. In 2010, Aamulehti carried out its first employee survey on values to find out the editorial staff’s values and views on social issues on an anonymous basis. The survey was an effort to promote pluralism and open dialogue on values in the media sector.

Kauppalehti, for its part, has an active news blog that provides background to news stories and facilitates dialogue between the reader and the journalist.

Alma Media launched a Media Academy in 2010. The Academy’s task is to strengthen cooperation between journalists and readers through open interaction and to study ethical guidelines. The Academy is focused on how to communicate the ”contents” of responsible journalism to readers and engage in a dialogue with them.

The role of media in a sustainable society

Media has a unique relationship with sustainable development: through people’s choices and actions, journalistic content has indirect economic, social, ecological and cultural effects. Alma Media’s newspapers and other media each approach environmental questions their own way. For instance, Kauppalehti approaches them from the perspective of business life, while Iltalehti’s approach is more related to everyday choices made by consumers. At the international level, for instance in the Global Reporting Initiative, the role of journalism in promoting sustainable development has been highlighted as a key element of corporate responsibility in the media sector.

Alma Media also raised this issue in the autumn of 2010 in panel discussions that brought together journalists from various Alma Media newspapers and external experts on corporate responsibility to discuss the role and responsibilities of media in a sustainable society. Based on the discussions, it can be said that Finnish media emphasises freedom of speech, reliability and pluralism as the cornerstones of good journalism. Instead of directly campaigning for sustainable development, responsibility and transparency in content production were perceived to be the media’s key responsibilities and ways of building a sustainable society. Please watch a summary of the discussion online.