About the book “Ethics in online journalism”

This is a summary of the book “Ethics in Online Journalism” – published on September 5, 2014.


What people say in the book:

»I have never heard about this topic before your email. It’s obvious that something like this shouldn’t happen. For us, as a news-site, speed is important. But the most important principle of our work is accuracy.«
Birger Menke, editor at Der Spiegel Online

»On the print newspaper we had six levels of editing, before the story was put on paper. That is not how it works online. There is no time.«
Len Downie, editor-in-chief of Washington Post 1991-2008

»A lot of media organizations have been fooled by content on Twitter and Instagram. Five minutes later the whole nation is laughing at you.«
Daniel Jackson, community moderator at The Sun

Some reviews:

“This is simply a book that should be read by everyone who does journalism online, it should be a first textbook in journalism studies – and not least, it should be compulsory reading for every boss who sets up the framework for their online media.”
Review by Frede Jakobsen, journalist and editor, in Journalisten

“If you are not already talking and thinking about your ethics (as a journalist producing online) this is the place to start. At the same time, the book is an excellent reference work that – without claiming to know all the right answers – starts and qualifies your thoughts about ethics.”
Review by Heine Jørgensen, database and research editor at Ekstra Bladet



Journalists themselves have little faith in online journalism. Actually, most think the emergence of online has weakened ethics in the media. The new book “Ethics in Online Journalism” identifies both problems and overseen opportunities for media ethics online. The book, written by journalists who themselves work in online journalism, provides 80 down-to-earth recommendations on where media can improve.

“Ethics in Online Journalism” is based on a large survey among media professionals in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. 5.088 journalists have participated, and a vast majority see more problems than solutions in online journalism.

  • 74 percent agree or fully agree with the statement: “The speed is often too high in online media, and that leads to lower quality.”
  • 78 percent think that the ability to measure clicks “pulls journalism in the wrong direction, because many clicks has become a goal in itself.”
  • Only 3 percent find journalism online to be more trustworthy than print media, radio or TV.
  • Only 4 percent think that online journalism has strengthened the overall ethics in media. 62 percent think that online journalism has weakened it.

Sadly, this dire view matches a similar survey by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, made among 300 digital journalists in 2009. Asked “Where is journalism heading?”, 54 percent replied “The wrong way”.

Online can strengthen ethics

Online platforms have created problems for media ethics that we never knew before: How do you cover breaking news when every minute is a deadline? How do you balance private and professional on Facebook or Twitter? How do you correct your errors properly, to prevent them from spreading all over the world?

At the same time, online has given us a great many ways to improve our ethics in journalism. We can correct an error instantly, we can enter direct dialogue with our users like never before, and we can reach the entire world with a click.

Over one-and-a-half year authors Jakob Albrecht and Andreas Marckmann Andreassen have met sources in USA, United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and Denmark.

They have interviewed more than 70 journalists, editors, researchers and users. Among those are sources from Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe, NPR, Nieman Journalism Lab, Pew Research Center, BBC, The Sun, The Guardian, ZDF, Der Spiegel and a large number of Danes, Norwegians and Swedes.

The result is a book that turns the negative view of the media business around: If the opportunities are seized, and the problems are dealt with, online platforms can and should strengthen overall media ethics. This book tells you how to do it.