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Engaging the public in regulating for ethical journalism

School of Media and Communication, Faculty of Arts Humanities and Culture

Dr Julie Firmstone

Responsive Mode Impact Fund

Ethically produced journalism that the public can trust is essential to democracy. In recent years, there have been numerous problems and issues with the press and public trust in journalism is in decline. As one of the two UK organisations that regulate the written press, IMPRESS’s main role is to ensure the maintenance of standards amongst its member publications and to set the boundaries of legitimate and ethical journalism. However, IMPRESS also has an indirect role to serve the public. Maintaining high journalistic standards ultimately benefits the public by ensuring that they have truthful, accurate and reliable information at their disposal.

Declining public trust in journalism is already having social consequences, with misinformation, disinformation and the turn to unregulated social media making it harder for the public to develop the level of media literacy required to identify reliable information. Historically, debates about the role and function of the news media, its ethical parameters and its modes of governance and regulation, have taken place amongst relatively elite groups in our society, with relatively little meaningful input from the public. The main aim of the project is to find out how journalism ethics might better connect with and serve the public and what role regulators can play in this process. Dr Julie Firmstone and project partner Professor John Steel (University of Derby) will examine what role the public can play in enhancing and safeguarding journalism and its standards. Working with IMPRESS we will co-produce a tracking toolkit for consulting and engaging the public in debates about standards of ethics in journalism. The project will have lasting societal impact by embedding a public facing process into the regulatory activities, practices and policies of one of the UK’s press regulators.

A report based on the project’s survey can be found here.

Dr Julie Firmstone can be contacted by email: