Journalistic quality? The answer is audience trust

As the World Press Freedom Day celebration started in earnest at the National Library in Riga, a key question posed was: What is journalistic quality and how can we realise it? A panel of speakers seemed agreed on the need for audience trust.

“First of all, we need to earn the trust of our audience”, said Cilla Benko, Director-General of Swedish Radio, adding that such trust would make it harder for politicians to “hurt” media organisations.

However, she stressed, audience trust could only come about by being truly independent and knowledgeable, enabling journalists to “ask the right questions”.

While agreeing with Benko, Yuli Ismartono of the Indonesian Tempo English Magazine, was quick to point out that, in some countries, building such trust could come at a price, including death.

A point that Musikilu Mojeed, Managing Editor of Premium Times, readily conceded was true of Nigeria where, as he put it, the quality of journalism could be affected by who owned the media.

The speakers further agreed that investigative journalism was an important indicator of journalistic quality, particularly if, as Maria Teresa Ronderos of the Open Society Foundation explained, it engaged the public in an act of “open journalism”.

As part of open journalism, she added, it was important to invest in good editors who could help contextualise information “in the sea of alternative media outlets”.

Paul Steiger, Founding Editor-in-Chief of ProPublica, agreed, emphasizing that media organisations needed the right kind of institutional culture and a diversified funding base to guarantee their independence.