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Focus groups with young journalists on ethics

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Attitudes and experiences with journalism ethics of students in internship in French-speaking Belgian newsrooms

The four main Journalism Schools in French-speaking Belgium (ULB, UCLouvain, ULiege and IHECS) have conducted a qualitative research study on journalism students' perceptions of journalism ethics. This study was based upon focus groups with 33 students that had recently finished an internship in a professional newsroom. The focus groups were conducted between September and November 2019. The objective of the research was to analyze how journalism interns are confronted with ethics, how they apprehend these issues and how they deal with it, deviate from or adjust to those common standards. A particular focus was students' perception of professional ethics as adapted or not to the current evolutions in the profession: digitalization, economic crisis, and blurring professional identities.

The results highlight that students have a hard time to precisely define ethical norms and apply them in their practices, but they hold very high standards of journalistic quality and consider ethics to be a keystone of their professional identity. The focus groups offer a deeper insight into some of the results of the survey of European journalists: Belgian young journalists, like respondents under 25 in the survey, tend to defend that the principles of journalism ethics are still necessary in the digital age, but they need adaptation in order to be able to apply them in new contexts, such as social media. 

ULB

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