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Austria – (C4) Journalism professionalism

Score in short:

The position of journalists concerning professional ethics and standards is quite ambivalent. On the one hand, such principles are highly valued and a crucial status is attributed to them; on the other hand, journalists show little enthusiasm regarding institutionalized forms of self-criticism and reflection.

Score in detail:

Public debates on media-related issues often center on the independence of the ORF or the (political) weight of Kronen Zeitung. In 2006, a popular journalist of the ORF publicly criticized the ongoing interventions of politicians; further internal criticism was announced by the platform SOS-ORF. It was supported by ORF employees worrying about quality standards and independence. even though the process of self-criticism in the Austrian media sector is quite fluent and all of our respondents at least occasionally take part in public debates on media-related issues, they also admitted that lack of time and a high workload prevent such in-depth discussions. Skepticism about the need for further education and discussion on journalistic basic skills was high among our respondents. About 34 % of Austrian journalists are graduate academics, which can be considered rather low. Concerning further education, journalists are most interested in workshops on writing skills or technical developments (S. Weber 2006, p. 63). According to one of our respondents, education on democratic values is hardly mentioned by the employees. Overall, the self-image of Austrian journalists (in particular those working in political areas) is ambivalent. Austrian journalists consider two roles to be most important: their role as critics and their role as objective mediators of neutral information. Those contrary concepts are very important for over 90 % of journalists working in political sections (Kaltenbrunner, Karmasin, & Kraus 2010, p. 18ff).

Overall, Austrian journalists are pleased with their working conditions: 75 % are very satisfied with working times; 51 % cannot complain about their daily workload and 44 % are very satisfied with the time they have to spend on research (Kaltenbrunner et al. 2008, p. 82). Nevertheless, discontent is present among younger journalists with freelancing contracts concerning remuneration and job security (S. Weber 2006, p. 49). Time pressure is, according to the president of the journalists’ union, a problem in the online media sector, but also increasing in other media sectors due to the ongoing rationalization in all areas.