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Amity Journal of Media & Communication Studies Copyright 2015 by ASCO2015, Vol. 5, No. 1 – 2, 81-92 Amity University Rajasthan (ISSN 2231 – 1033) Media Accountability on Digital Platforms: The Role of Audience Bhanu Bhakta Acharya Researcher University of Ottawa Email ID: [email protected] contend that media accountability to the public and professional stakeholders has been improving in recent years because of theincreased use of digital platforms, such as online news portals, blogs and social media outlets. By reviewing media accountability literature,this article presents an overview of media accountability on digital platforms by incorporating various aspects, such as concept, evolution,current practices, key challenges and role of audiences to make media accountable to the public. Even though digital platforms provide forseveral strengths in making news media accountable to the public (such as immediacy, transparency, global access and interactivity), at thesame time there are a number of challenges, which cast doubt on the notion that these platforms provide improved accountability. Thisarticle, therefore, explores the role of audiences in addressing these challenges and making media accountable in accordance withprofessional standards and interests of the general public. Today, media audiences, in the form of citizen journalists, actively participate ondigital platforms through various news media tools, and help make online media accountable to public and professional stakeholders.Keywords: Accountability, audience, digital platforms, interactivity, online media, responsibilityINTRODUCTION worldwide to the issue of accountability on digitalAccountability to public and professional platforms. Since the Internet offers affordable newstakeholders is one of the most widely discussed venues, such as blogs, micro-blogs, and discussionethical standards in journalism. Many journalism forums, for public discourse on journalisticinstitutions, including the Society of Professional performance, a number of media scholars have beenJournalists (SPJ), the Canadian Association of generally optimistic, emphasizing the substantialJournalists (CAJ), the American Society of News strengths of the Internet in terms of maintainingEditors (ASNE), the International Federation of media accountability (Deuze & Yeshua, 2001;Journalists (IFJ) and the Committee of Concerned Fengler, 2012; Friend & Singer, 2007; Heikkila,Journalists (CCJ) have recognized accountability as Domingo, Glowacki, Kus, & Baisnée, 2012; Joseph,one of the fundamental standards of professional 2011; Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2007; Krogh, 2012;journalism. These institutions broadly outline the Lasorsa, Lewis & Holton, 2012; Plaisance, 2000;scope of media accountability, including a consistent Singer, 2005; Ward, 2010). For instance, audiencesrange of practices: making public interest the first largely ignored by traditional media in the past,priority, encouraging the public to express have their own digital platforms today forgrievances, exposing unethical practices in expressing their concerns. In addition, audiences canjournalism and media institutions, maintaining the take part in news production as contributors as wellfairness and reliability of reporting, addressing as gatekeepers. Therefore, it can be argued that newserrors promptly and transparently and getting media tend to be more accountable to professionalpermission where applicable and/or possible when and public stakeholders on digital platforms owingreporting on human subjects. to constant monitoring by global audiences.The birth of the Internet and the growth of onlinenews media have attracted the attention of scholars Though online media have been around for over two decades, they are still a new phenomenon 81

among journalistic professionals worldwide due to accountability on digital platforms, presents anrapid technological change and development, as all overview of media accountability, identifies keyforms of mass media converge onto multimedia challenges and explores the role of audiences asplatforms. Even though these digital platforms have citizen journalists, who are actively participating inmany features, such as universal accessibility, digital platforms to make online news mediainteractivity and public participation, that can be accountable to professional and public stakeholders.useful for upholding public accountability, they arenot free from professional challenges, such as weak METHODOLOGYgatekeeping, hasty information updates and post- This article reviews scholarly literature on mediapublication content moderation (Babcock, 2012; accountability for a period of three decades, rangingFriend & Singer, 2007; Heikkila, Domingo, from the mid-1980s to the present. During the mid-Glowacki, Kus, & Baisnée, 2012; Kovach & 1980s, the concept of accountability with regard toRosenstiel, 2007). Such challenges may call professional journalism was widely discussed andjournalistic performance into question with regard the term \"accountability\" was introduced in theto upholding and maintaining accountability to domain of news media for the first time as anpublic and professional stakeholders on digital important element of code of ethics (Dennis,platforms. Gillmor, & Glasser, 1989).It is a well-known fact that journalistic media have The applied review methodology, a research methodbeen changing for many decades – from the used for this study, is a focused literature reviewtelegraph in the mid-nineteenth century to the intended to identify various scientific articles on theInternet in the late twentieth century. Scholars (such media accountability theme. For this purpose, theas Joseph, 2011; Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2007; Krogh, Morisset Library, the largest library at the University2012) contend that journalism's ethical standards of Ottawa, was scanned to explore the literature ofremain largely unchanged in the face of shifting the specified period, on the theme of mediawork practices. According to these scholars, accountability.responsibility and accountability of the press in the On the basis of content on media accountability, 34digital age has not lessened, but rather has increased pieces of literature (14 journal articles, 16 books andin order to serve the public’s purposes. Moreover, 4 empirical research studies) were selected. Inthe traditional concept of accountability has come addition, six ethics guidelines of variousinto academic debate, while applying the notion in professional journalists' associations (such asthe context of digital media and online journalism, American News Editors Association, Canadianthe issue being whether or not digital platforms Association of Journalists and Internationalcontribute to the enhancement of accountability by Federation of Journalists) and some relevantnews media and journalists to professional and scholarly works on past media accountability werepublic stakeholders. also referred to, where applicable, to cross-examineTo contribute to the conceptual clarity in a the argument in the selected literature. This kind oftechnologically-changing context, it is, therefore, literature review, according to Torraco (2005),important to conduct a comprehensive review of addresses new or emerging topics that wouldavailable scholarly literature on the subject of benefit from a holistic conceptualization andaccountability of news media on digital platforms. synthesis of literature on the topic to date. MediaKeeping in mind the following key questions: (a) accountability on digital platforms is an emergingWhat is the current understanding of media topic that is attracting the interest of variousaccountability on digital platforms; and (b) What is scholars throughout the world, and this sort ofthe role of audiences to make media accountable, comprehensive literature review on the topic is morethis article reviews the existing scholarly literature likely to lead to a concrete conceptualization ofon media and journalism with regard to media media accountability. 82

CONCEPT AND SCOPE unethical practices of journalists and the newsMedia accountability is a kind of social control over media, and abide by the same high standards tomedia content, responding to media's perceived which they hold others”. In addition, scholarsobligations to society, such as providing quality (Friend & Singer, 2007; Joseph, 2011; Kovach &information, supporting democratic systems of Rosenstiel, 2007) affirm that journalisticgovernance, respecting human rights and accountability can be ensured by a range ofavoiding/minimizing harm to society. Media practices, including the publication of letters to theaccountability also responds to a common belief that editor, accessibility to concerned audience members,media outlets should be held accountable to public the archiving of past news stories for futureand professional stakeholders for the quality of their reference and sincere efforts to inform the publicperformance (Bardoel & d'Haenens, 2004; Fengler, about news corrections. In addition, Painter andEberwein, & Leppik-Bork, 2011; McQuail, 2005). Hodges (2012) propose various ways of making media accountable to the public in a democraticDefining the concept of media accountability, society, such as developing and implementing codesMcQuail (2005) writes that it incorporates \"all the of ethics, developing autonomous press councils orvoluntary or involuntary processes by which the ombudsmen, fostering media criticism through freemedia answer directly or indirectly to their society and independent op-ed pages and encouragingfor the quality and/or consequences of publication\" citizen journalism initiatives.(p. 207). Different media scholars have defined theconcept of media accountability in their own ways, Moreover, maintaining conceptual clarity betweenbut all have explained that it involves the \"responsibility\" and \"accountability\" is veryperformance of the professional/moral obligations important to this study, as these terms are oftenof news media. For Plaisance (2000), media used synonymously, but are different in theiraccountability refers to the \"manifestation of claims essence. Responsibility is a duty to dischargeto responsibility\" (p. 258). For McIntyre (1987), it is functional and moral obligations, whereasan \"umbrella term for all of the ways for enforcing accountability is the readiness to give an explanationthe moral obligations\" that a media outlet needs to or justification to concerned stakeholders for one'sfulfill (p. 151). For Painter and Hodges (2012), it is \"a acts, judgment or intentions (McQuail, 2005). Inprocess by which media could or should be expected other words, responsibility is something thator obliged to report a truthful and complex account journalists take on themselves, but accountabilityof the news to their constituents\" (p. 4). Finally, for is what others require of journalists. WhereasGlasser (2009), media accountability refers to \"the responsibility defines proper conduct, accountabilitywillingness of the media to answer for what they do compels one to apply it in practice. Hodges (1986)by their acts of publication, including what they do notes that:to society at large, and […] the feasibility of securingaccountability where there is unwillingness” (p. [T]he issue of responsibility is the132). Several scholars (Friend & Singer, 2007;McQuail, 2003; Painter & Hodges, 2012; Plaisance, following: to what social needs should2000) agree that accountability plays a critical role inthe overall functioning of the news media. we expect journalists to respond? TheThe SPJ has developed benchmarks of accountability issue of accountability is as follows:for professional journalists. According to the SPJ(1996), journalists should \"encourage the public to how might society call on journalistsexpress its grievances against the news media, admitmistakes and correct them promptly, expose to account for their performance of the responsibility given them. Responsibility has to do with defining proper conduct, accountability with compelling it. (p.14, as cited in McQuail, 1997, p. 515) 83

According to McQuail (1997), responsibility refers to that time was the Canons of Journalism, prepared\"those obligations, which are attributed to the media and endorsed by ASNE in 1922. The Canons werethat they should respond to public expectations followed as a standard of journalistic ethics by manyrelated to social needs\"; however, accountability, for other journalism institutions, including the SPJ.McQuail, refers to \"the process in which media are During the late 1920s, a fierce debate arose amongcalled to account for meeting their obligations\" (p. media professionals in regard to the enforcement515). provisions of the codes, without which, some said, the whole enterprise would be a \"mockery\". At theThis section has analyzed the concept and scope of same time, an opposing perspective was gainingaccountability and also reviewed academic momentum, focusing on the idea that enforceableinterpretations of the two terms, that is, measures could create censorship that may \"violateaccountability and responsibility, in order to the free press doctrine\" (Christians, 1989, p. 37). Thisdistinguish them from each other. This discussion debate had two significant consequences: first, noshows that responsibility is a conceptual further media ethics codes were developed forunderstanding, whereas accountability is to almost five decades; second, the existing codes wereimplement that understanding into journalistic used as showy tusks lacking any real professionalpractice. obligations (Christians, 1989). In the meantime, government functionaries were gradually becomingEVOLUTION OF MEDIA ACCOUNTABILITY active in curbing the unbridled freedom of massIndustrialization, technological innovations, media on the grounds of public interest. Amid suchdemocratization and increased literacy in the tensions between free media advocates andnineteenth century contributed to an expansion of responsible media proponents, the Hutchinsmass newspapers in the Western world. Media Commission submitted a report in 1947 entitled Aoutlets were considered defenders of democracy and Free and Responsible Press, which created a paradigminformation trustees with \"a moral claim to shift for journalism ethics, moving away from theautonomy and non-interference by government\" libertarian concept of freedom of the press and(Christians, Glasser, McQuail, Nordenstreng, & toward communitarianism. Later, in 1956, theWhite, 2009, p.55). However, the growing size of concepts of social responsibility and publicmedia outlets, particularly in Europe and the U.S., accountability were theorized by three University ofwas often characterized by market monopoly, low- Illinois scholars in a seminal work entitled Fourquality journalism and various negative Theories of the Press (Siebert, Peterson, & Schramm,consequences of unbridled media power (Krogh, 1956). In 1973, after two and a half decades, the SPJ2012). Near the end of the nineteenth century, the revised its codes of ethics, clearly incorporating inyellow journalism scandal in the U.S. stunned the them the term \"accountability\" and stating thatentire journalism profession, increasing concerns \"journalists should be accountable to the public forabout ethical standards and professional practices their reports and the public should be encouraged toamong journalists. In response, voices began to voice its grievances against the media. Openemerge regarding the media's responsibility to serve dialogue with our readers, viewers, and listenersthe public interest. should be fostered\" (SPJ, 1973, Art.V(5)). In 1988, aIn 1910, the first journalistic code of ethics was public forum on \"Media Freedom anddrafted and adopted in Kansas, a U.S. state, by the Accountability\" was organized at ColumbiaKansas Editorial Association. Following this trend, University in New York \"to examine the problems ofjournalists and media institutions in other American media freedom and accountability” (Dennis,states, including Missouri, South Dakota, Oregon Gillmor, & Glasser, 1989, p. viii). Several otherand Washington, also gradually began to draft and similar public discussions have been organized inendorse state-wide codes (Christians, 1989). The different parts of the world in the past two decadesmost famous and widely applied code of ethics of and many scholars (Babcock, 2012; Dennis, Gillmor, 84

& Glasser, 1989; McQuail, 2003) have written books online journalism has been shown to be debatable,and research articles on media freedom and as some journalists argue that the Internet is aaccountability. Such meetings and works of research fundamentally different medium (Ward, 2010; Wardhave firmly and internationally established the & Wasserman, 2012), while others argue thatnotion of media accountability. journalism transcends technological barriers and that the same standards are ubiquitous regardless ofIn addition, after years of research and discussions the medium (Joseph, 2011; Reuters, 2013). Inwith many professionals and scholars, the CCJ response to the question of whether journalisticdeveloped nine guiding principles of journalism that ethics change in the context of online journalism,are simultaneously professional and ethical. The many scholars and professional institutions havesecond principle, \"journalism's first loyalty is to said \"No\". The ethical guidelines of the CAJ (2011)citizens,\" integrates media accountability, with the clearly indicate that \"ethical practice does not changeterm \"citizens\" indicating media audiences of all with the medium\" (para 9). Reuters (2013) states thattypes (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2007, p. 52). The CAJ \"Internet reporting is nothing more than applyinghas developed guidelines for ethical journalism that the principles of sound journalism to the sometimesdescribe the accountability of news media unusual situations thrown up in the virtual world.comprehensively. The guidelines express The same standards of sourcing, identification andcommitments to fairness and reliability of reporting verification apply\" (para 1). For Hohman (2011) andand to prioritizing service to the public interest. Whitehouse (2010), traditional ethics rules prevail inThey clearly distinguish between news and online journalism. Kovach and Rosenstiel (2001)opinions, discourage reporting in disguise and have expressed similar thoughts, stating thatprohibit image altering and the deviation of visuals, \"journalism's function is not fundamentally changedwhich can distort context. The guidelines encourage by the digital age. The techniques may be different,the prompt, transparent correction of errors, the but the underlying principles are the same\" (p. 26).acquisition of permission whenever possible inreporting and the maintenance of digital archives Some scholars argue that new digital technologieswith full content (CAJ, 2011). This section has enabled by the Internet may significantly enhancepresented a brief description of the evolution of the the range of attempts to foster public accountabilityconcept of media accountability and the tension through online interaction with users. Bardoel andbetween the free press and responsible press. d'Haenens (2004) find that Internet-based mediaMoreover, some scholars (Friend & Singer, 2007; platforms, such as websites, blogs, social media, areKovach & Rosenstiel, 2007) contend that the Internet more favorable to public accountability than arehas facilitated the growth of the media traditional media formats and that this trend hasaccountability concept and that online media are increased over time. The two-way interactivity ofable to practice accountability more fully than online platforms has changed the role of journaliststraditional media outlets. Pursuing these ideas, the from that of a lecturer role to that of a forum leader,next section describes accountability practices on argue Kovach and Rosenstiel (2007). For instance,digital platforms and the challenges to media the New York Times newspaper corrected misspeltaccountability with regard to public and surname of Solomon Northup on March 4, 2014, in aprofessional stakeholders. memoir entitled \"12 years a slave\", originally published 161 years ago (on January 20, 1853). WhenMEDIA ACCOUNTABILITY ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS a Twitter user pointed out the misspellings in theFriend and Singer (2007) argue that, as a newly newspaper's archive, the newspaper made thedeveloped genre, online journalism currently lacks correction immediately, believing that the article hasethical guidelines adequate for addressing the become \"more complete and authentic\" than beforechallenges created by digital platforms. Meanwhile, (visit New York Times correction page:the application of traditional ethical practices to 85

s/corrections-march-4-2014.html). Scholars, external links. Their official websites are generally less accountable and transparent to generaltherefore, have reached the conclusion that online audiences than those of their counterparts in smaller media outlets.journalism has fostered accountability and Despite these positive developments intransparency more easily than its traditional accountability on online media platforms, certain features of digital platforms, such as speedycounterparts (Singer, 2005; Lasorsa, Lewis & Hilton, updates, the lack of deadlines, the absence of space/time limits, and the participation of citizen2012; Porlezza, 2012). journalists in news content, have added their own challenges. For instance, many online mediaIn a seminal research study, Jane Singer (2005) organizations archive content selectively, whileexamines the blog platform as adopted by political some do not keep online archives at all. This trendjournalists in traditional mainstream media, and has encouraged online media to compromise onfinds that journalists who blog usually challenge the issues of accountability and transparency. Similarly,\"professional norms” that frame journalists as “non- limitations on staff in newsrooms, and theirpartisan gatekeeper[s] of information important to responsibility to perform multiple roles fromthe public\", but that blogging journalists are reporter to editor, publisher and promoter, have alsononetheless more \"transparent and accountable\" weakened journalistic accountability (Kovach &than journalists in traditional media, including Rosenstiel, 2007). Furthermore, traditional principlesradio, television and newspapers, as blogs are in a of journalism, such as accuracy, balance, credibility,highly interactive and participatory format (p. 147). information verification, gatekeeping andAccording to Singer, though the blog confronts accountability have been challenged on digitaltraditional journalistic roles such as \"gatekeeping\" platforms in a number of ways.and \"non-partisanship\", the format at the same timehas encouraged journalist bloggers to uphold Poor gatekeeping: Gatekeeping is a process byaccountability and transparency by using hyperlinks which information is filtered for dissemination byto sources and related materials. means of a variety of news media outlets in accordance with a set of criteria determined by aAn empirical study on micro-blogging by Lasorsa, number of factors. Gatekeeping mechanism inLewis and Holton (2012) examines how mainstream journalism is for internal quality control and thejournalists who micro-blog (this format boomed upholding of professional practices. In traditionalwith the rise of Twitter) negotiate their professional media, editors and subeditors read, edit, re-writenorms and practices in a new media format. Like and verify information to ensure that its qualitySinger's (2005) study, their study finds that meets the media outlet’s standards before it isjournalists behave more transparently and published. However, the evolution of technologiesaccountably in new media forms by responding to and social norms has made it difficult to definereader queries, participating in issue-related online journalism in traditional ways. On the onediscussions, providing further information and hand, the role of online-only journalists consistslinking to internal and external websites. They write largely of \"information-gathering [… or] compilingthat “although the process of referencing original stories originally written for someone else\" (Singer,source material has not always been easily facilitated 2003, p. 149). On the other hand, newsgathering andin traditional media formats [ …] the hyperlinks that publishing systems are easily available to the public.are endemic to blogging and micro-blogging present A popular practice among journalists has beenan opportunity for journalists to be more growing in social media outlets, especially intransparent, and thus more accountable\" to the Twitter. This practice involves breaking informationpublic (Lasorsa, Lewis & Holton, 2012, p. 24).Similarly, their study also finds that “big” mediajournalists, termed \"elite-journalists\" by the authors,participate less in discussion, rarely reply toaudience questions and usually do not provide 86

in real time or before the news story is published in technically. According to Friend and Singer (2007),respective media. The motivation factors for such online employees generally fall into the formernewsbreaks, which largely avoid the gatekeeping category. They are not well trained in re-writing,function, are growing competition, visibility and editing and updating websites, in informationtechnological affordability (Lasorsa, Lewis, & search strategies or in the creation of multimediaHolton, 2012). Therefore, the gatekeeping function is products. Instead of journalistic knowledge andgradually losing its significance. skills, they have technical knowledge and organizational skills.Many scholars agree that information verification isa challenging job in an online context (Friend & Singer (2003) argues that many online journalists, inSinger, 2007; Joseph, 2011; Kovach & Rosenstiel, order to elude commercial pressures, blur the2007; Ward, 2010). New media technology and the boundary between news and advertisements bygrowing trend toward the production of speedy writing advertorials or adding pop-up advertisinginformation have weakened long-developed windows that readers face when looking for otherinformation verification practices. Online information. Kovach and Rosenstiel (2007) expressinformation verification has to be very fast and there their worries regarding the watchdog function ofis intense competition to break stories immediately, journalism, which they say has been seriouslymuch more than to get the stories right through threatened by a new kind of corporatecareful scrutiny. In such situations, journalists treat conglomeration. Their research findings indicatefacts as a \"commodity[ies]\" that are easily retrieved, that digital platforms are widely used to \"distort,redesigned and targeted to a specific audience, and mislead, and overwhelm the function of a free press\"spend more time trying to find new information \"to (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2007; p. 166), and that newadd to the existing news, usually interpretation, technologies have contributed to superficialrather than trying to independently discover and reporting that relies merely on chat box gossip.verify news facts\" (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2007, p. 86).Journalists seek particular information relevant to Crowdsourcing and content moderation: Thetheir stories from Internet sources, immediately Internet is a popular platform for online journalists,synthesizing the information into their existing news not only to promote their stories, but also to collectstories or using the information to twist the story information through various social media outlets,into new angles and disseminate the new angles as such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Mediaupdated information. This trend, resulting from new institutions and journalists use crowdsourcing toinformation technologies, has made journalists collect information at their ease without spendingpassive information receivers rather than active much money or time in the field. The maingatherers. attraction of crowdsourcing so far is the high proportion of audience members who are ready toLack of professional knowledge: The majority of contribute information at any time, regardless ofonline media employees come from diverse proper acknowledgment. The authenticity ofbackgrounds outside of the journalism profession. information gathered through mass intelligence isEven for those trained in journalism, academic under question because nobody takes responsibilitycurricula specific to online journalism are quite rare for authenticating or verifying the collectedin higher education (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2007; information. In addition, privacy is frequentlyFriend & Singer, 2007). Therefore, only a few violated online through the unconsented use ofjournalists are familiar with online tools from an unverified information originally posted onacademic perspective before they enter the audience members' Facebook or Twitter pages.profession, regardless of whether they study Whitehouse (2010) contends that privacy should notjournalism. Employees in the digital realm are likely be invaded even though crowdsourcing tools areto be ill-equipped, either journalistically or 87

easily available and there is no existing legal Most journalistic ethical codes (e.g., SPJ, 1996; CAJ,sanction against such practices. 2011) clearly state that news sources should be fully identified when possible. Failing this being done,Content moderation has been widely practiced in reasons for anonymity should be explained clearlytraditional media outlets to ensure quality by in the story. Many audience members signing inmaintaining professional norms, such as truth with pseudonyms, react to articles with obsceneseeking, harm minimization, independence and language, abuse and speculative content, which isaccountability (SPJ, 1996). It is expected that media published without, or with very little, moderation.organizations and journalists use content However, the media may have a different policy formoderation both to admit mistakes and correct them receiving feedback in its traditional media outlets,promptly during the journalistic process, and to particularly in newspapers, and may reject feedbackinvite readers to discuss their grievances about submitted under pseudonyms, or which failsjournalists' conduct. However, news media have standards of language quality and contentbeen found modifying content without informing worthiness. Cenite and Zhang (2012) opine that thethe public for the protection of the media’s business same editorial standards should apply in theirinterests and for hiding or erasing any controversial entirety for feedback content moderation, sinceissues or unprofessional performance that may \"light or absent moderation has a price\" (p. 43).damage the media’s reputation (Acharya, 2014).Hence, the content moderation feature has allowed Post-deletion or \"unpublishing\": Traditional newsmedia and journalists to correct their past mistakes media are increasingly adopting online editions,without proper accreditation and to remove which have advantages and disadvantages. On theaudiences’ critical comments. one hand, online content can allow readers to recall past events and make them immediately available.Indifference to audience feedback: Having On the other hand, our lives are documented andunlimited space available on the web and the published online and this information remains 'just agrowing involvement of the audience are some of click away' in perpetuity. Many media organizationsthe accountability indicators for digital platforms. have been facing grievances from those requestingThese two factors cause online news media to invite to have online content removed for various reasons,audience members to comment on stories so that including the publication of incorrect or incompletemedia can be monitored and questioned if they are information, misleading or outdated content, sourcenot accountable to the public. However, this remorse or even false allegations (CAJ, 2010;theoretical notion is not adequately practiced even English, Currie & Link, 2010). Many people also askin the well-reputed media outlets of developed Google to \"unpublish\" information that affects theircounties. In Canada, for example, the national public professional lives, but Google cannot automaticallybroadcaster sometimes prevents online readers from remove anything unless information is removedcommenting on news stories that the broadcaster from the source site (Moskwa, 2009). Recognizingfeels is controversial. A story entitled \"3 UK the growing concerns of the public in this regard,schoolgirls suspected of joining ISIS in Syria\", many online news organizations have started topublished on February 21, 2015, was closed within develop internal policies for deleting or moderating24 hours of being posted on the CBC's official defamatory comments that readers have postedwebsite (visit about an article, though removing entire articles iskschoolgirls-suspected-of-joining-isis-in-syria- unlikely due to the lack of clear policies (CAJ, 2010;1.2966087). In the context of a developing country English, 2009). Even though online archivinglike Nepal, it was found that critical comments were systems may continuously victimize people (forprevented or significantly altered before publication, instance, when an old, unproved allegationor removed from news portals to avoid criticism continues to circulate on the Internet, creating a(Acharya, 2014). biased perception of the accused), there is a serious 88

ethical dilemma regarding whether or not it is fair to “their main constituents are the public and politicalremove a story from online archives or whether it society” (p. 1).should be left intact. How should online mediarespond to unpublishing requests while upholding Active, conscious audiences can have an importantjournalistic principles and best practices? In this role in making media accountable to professionalrespect, digital platforms have created a serious and public stakeholders. This notion applies to aethical dilemma in journalism. greater extent in the online context, since every audience member can be a potential citizenThis section has identified strengths of and journalist, and since digital platforms empower andopportunities on digital platforms (due to the encourage audiences to apply technological tools toplatforms' unique features, such as interactivity, create immediate pressure on columnists,transparency, accessibility and immediacy) with newsrooms and press councils. Cenite and Zhangregard to ensuring and enhancing journalistic (2012) explain that \"online tools enable newaccountability to public and professional opportunities for audiences to hold mediastakeholders. In addition, this section has also practitioners accountable and for journalists to fulfilldiscussed the new challenges created by the use of their obligations to be accountable to audiences\" ( platforms for the maintenance of journalistic 37). Before the digital journalism era, letters to thevalues and the upholding of accountability practices. editor were the main source of public involvement,In considering these challenges, the following but these were filtered through a tough gatekeepingsection argues that the audience can fix these mechanism, which meant that publishers' interestschallenges and make news media on digital could be safeguarded and a favorable image couldplatforms accountable to their professional be selected. Ward and Wasserman (2012) argue thatobligations and to the public. letters to the editor “are a limited mechanism for public input into mainstream press content\" (p. 25).ROLE OF AUDIENCE At present, audiences using digital platforms are notIn a parliamentary democratic system, the only information recipients, but they also activelyministerial cabinet is accountable to the parliament, interact, debate, create, communicate and sharethe parliament is accountable to the people, and information.other constitutional bodies are accountable tospecified agencies. In the context of journalism, Moreover, digital access by large audiences allowsSolzhenitsyn (1978) asks, \"[B]y what law has it the audiences to play an influential role in making[journalism] been elected and to whom is it media accountable by monitoring and critiquingresponsible?\" (as cited in Christians, 1989, p.36). In a whether media content follows ethical standardssimilar tone, British journalist Toby Webb, founder and journalistic values, and honors audienceand managing director of London's Ethical interests. For instance, Britain's Press ComplaintCorporation, asks, \"[W]ho holds these 'watchdogs' Commission (PCC) received more than 25,000[media] accountable?\" (Webb, 2009). These are complaints – a record number – after Daily Mailserious questions about ongoing arbitrary media columnist Jan Moir wrote an article about Stephenpractices, and the exact answer is not easy to Gately's death describing the events surrounding hispinpoint. However, based on the opinions and death as \"sleazy\" and \"less than respectable\"arguments of different media scholars, the potential (Robinson, 2010). The article, published on 16“parliament” that can hold journalists and media October 2009 – six days after Gately's death –institutions accountable can be the public or provoked outrage, with many readers expressingaudience. Painter and Hodges (2012) contend that their anger through various social media outlets,media institutions may have multiple constituents to including Facebook and Twitter. Referring to thewhom they are supposed to be accountable, but that PCC code of ethics, the complainants claimed that the Daily Mail had broken the PCC's code of conduct 89

on three fronts, arguing that the article was space to comment on particular issues, and toinaccurate, intruded into private grief and contained effectively engage with news content through onlinehomophobic remarks. The deluge of comments and media's interactivity and multimedia format. Incomplaints from audiences worldwide pressured the other words, today's audiences, for media andPCC to investigate the issue and the journalists to journalists, are like the parliament to which arethink their professional obligations. Hence, it can democratic government remains argued that the more access audiences have to Various digital platforms, such as Facebook andonline media content, the more effectively they can Twitter, can empower audiences to react, questionact as citizen journalists, assessing the suitability of and ask for further clarification if they disagree withmedia content and providing critical feedback to media information, thereby obliging newsmakers toimprove the quality of media performance. be accountable for their products. Audiences, engaged in collaborative content production withDISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION professional journalists, can verify and corroborateAs several aforementioned scholars argue, media information and thereby urge media performanceaccountability can be governed by the same that is accountable to public and professionaltraditional codes of ethics on digital platforms as in stakeholders. It is obvious that the role of audiencestraditional media, despite unique characteristics, can create a constant pressure on journalists andsuch as immediacy, interactivity, transparency and media institutions to respect the interests of theglobal access. Since the unique characteristics of general public and to be accountable to platforms (such as crowdsourcing, post-publication correction, post deletion) can also lead to Hence, the role of audiences is important to thevarious challenges, the role of audiences seems more monitoring of journalists' performance, encouragingimportant on digital platforms because active and the latter to maintain a high level of accountabilityconscious audiences can fix these challenges and in the digital realm. Moreover, if more people havebring media and journalists back on their access to online media, they will be able toprofessional track. constantly monitor online news portals in order toEven though the role of audiences in making media corroborate information, and can create pressure onresponsible and accountable to the public for their journalists to be accountable to their professionalactions and performance is important in any media and public stakeholders. A research findingformat (traditional or new), a continuous interactive indicates that a reduction of the digital divide and arelationship between audiences and journalists on rise in media literacy may significantly encouragedigital platforms is very important in that this audiences to join digital platforms and watch therelationship encourages journalists to correct their watchdogs (Acharya, 2014). In addition, strong andmistakes and to respect the interests of the public. effective monitoring bodies, such as press councilsToday, audiences are highly involved in the use of or ombudsmen, are required to safeguard audiencemedia accountability instruments (such as online interests in cases where media houses andnews portals, media blogs and various social media journalists ignore public interests and deviate fromplatforms) helping to make media more accountable the professional track in order to emphasize politicalto the professional and public stakeholders. The role or market interests. Media can fulfill publicof audiences is broader on digital platforms than in expectations by publishing true, complete andtraditional media because the former incorporate reliable information, encouraging the general publicnon-traditional features to keep audiences actively to constantly monitor media content and providingwatching the watchdogs. The non-traditional platforms to allow audiences to express diversefeatures of digital platforms can, for instance, help opinions, including critical ones. Meaningfulonline media audiences to access content from audience participation audience can be ensured ifanywhere on the planet and to remain updated at media houses and monitoring agencies create anany time. This allows audience unlimited time and environment in which audiences can participate in: 90

(a) criticizing the practices of journalists and media, challenges to the maintenance of journalistic values(b) discussing ethical principles, and (c) modifying and the upholding of accountability practices. Theseor updating the principles of ethics. challenges include speedy updates, the growing insignificance of gatekeeping, crowdsourcing, post-To sum up, it has been ascertained in this article that publication correction, post-deletion and increasedaccountability is a crucial aspect of professional plagiarism. In responding to these challenges, mediajournalism in any media format - from print to audiences have a more significant role on digitalonline. Maintaining accountability on digital platforms because of the availability of new mediaplatforms is more convenient than doing so on tools, which are easy to use, accessible and effective.traditional media platforms for the following As the first loyalty of professional journalists orreasons: digital platforms are accessible to global media institutions should be towards their audienceaudiences; the platforms can publish information and the general public, a continuous interactiveimmediately; news presentation in multimedia relationship between media and society, therefore,format can be more attractive to a wide audience; can help build media that are robustly accountableand the interactive features of the platforms to professional and public stakeholders.encourage the audience's participation. Theplatforms, however, have also created newACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThe author wishes to thank Prof. Genevieve Bonin, University of Ottawa, for her input and comments.REFERENCESAcharya, B. B. (2014). Status of accountability in online news Committee of Concerned Journalists (1997). Principles of media: A case study of Nepal. Unpublished dissertation, journalism. Retrieved March 22, 2013, from University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada. Society of News Editors. (1975). Statement of principles. Dennis, E.E., Gillmor, D.M., & Glasser, T.L. (Eds.). (1989). Media Retrieved March 20, 2013, from freedom and accountability. New York: Greenwood Press. id=171. Deuze, M., & Yeshua, D. (2001). Online journalists face new ethical dilemmas. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16(4), 273-Babcock, W. A. (Ed.). (2012). Media accountability: Who will watch 292. the watchdog in the Twitter age? New York: Routledge. English, K. (2009). When should editors “unpublish” online newsBardoel, J. & d'Haenens, L. (2004). Media responsibility and source? The Canadian Journalism Project. Retrieved accountability: New conceptualizations and practices. October 06, 2013, from Communications, 29(1), 5-25. should-editors-unpublish-online-news-reports.Blizek, W. (1971). The social concept of accountability. Southern Fengler, S. (2012). From media self-regulation to ‘crowd-criticism’: Journal of Philosophy, 7, 107-111. Media accountability in the digital age. Central European Journal of Communication, 2, 175-189.Canadian Association of Journalists. (2010). Ethics of unpublishing paper. Retrieved February 15, 2014, from Fengler, S., Eberwein, T., & Leppik-Bork, T. (2011). Mapping media accountability – in Europe and beyond. In T. Eberwein, S. Fengler, E. Lauk, & T. Leppik-Bork (Eds.),Canadian Association of Journalists. (2011). Ethical guidelines. Mapping media accountability – in Europe and beyond (pp. 7- Retrieved February 16, 2013, from 21). Köln, Germany: Herbert von Halem Verlag. Friend, C., & Singer, J. S. (2007). Online journalism ethics: TraditionsCenite, M., & Zhang, Y. (2012). Recommendations for hosting and transitions. New York: M.E. Sharp. audience comments based on discourse ethics. In W. A. Babcock (Ed.), Media accountability: Who will watch the Giannakoulopoulos, A., Varlamis, I., & Kouloglou, S. (2012). watchdog in the Twitter age? (pp. 37-53). New York: Technology and journalism: Conflict and convergence at Routledge. the production level. In E. Siapera & A. Veglis (Eds.), The handbook of global online journalism (pp. 290-308).Christians, C. (1989). Self-regulation: A critical role for codes of Massachusetts and Oxford: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. ethics. In E.E. Dennis, D.M. Gillmor, & T.L. Glasser (Eds.), Media freedom and accountability (pp.35-53). New Glasser, T. L. (2009). Roles of news media in democracy. In C. York: Greenwood Press. Christians, T. L. Glasser, D. McQuail, K. Nordenstreng, and R. White (Eds.), Normative theories of the press (pp.Christians, C. G., Glasser, T.L., McQuail, D., Nordenstreng, K., & 114-135). Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois White, R. A. (Eds.). (2009). Normative theories of the press. Press. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Groenhart, H. (2012). Users' perception of media accountability. Central European Journal of Communication, 2, 190-202. 91

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