Media Ethics

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The Media and Its Responsibilities

The Media and Its Responsibilities


While corporate responsibility occupies a growing place in reputation strategies, as well as in relationship-based marketing and stakeholder relations, very little research has been conducted on how these strategies are represented over time in news media. A notable recent exception employs a constructionist framework to analyse how media assertions concerning corporate responsibility transform the claims of medias. The authors observe that hostile coverage or coverage focused on problems more than solutions and reliance on individuals with extreme views as sources of information may have discouraged some medias from undertaking corporate responsibility initiatives and reporting the results. It is worth noting that the tendency of consumers to give greater weight to negative than to positive news about a brand in making purchase decisions has been repeatedly conmediaed in the literature, and may influence media editorial choices.

Fears of receiving negative press are unfounded for medias that undertake and report demonstrably substantive corporate responsibility initiatives. If so, one reason may be that there exists a positive and statistically significant relationship between corporate values and media performance, which is of primary importance to key stakeholders. However, at least one study demonstrated no significant link between corporate responsibility strategies or values and approval from the media and the public, unless practices generally considered as good management can be called corporate responsibility. At present the questions of how corporate responsibility practices become media content, and to what effect, remain largely open (White, 2010). This research argues that corporate responsibility-based organisational promotion and reputation carry specific opportunities and risks based in the roles played by media and their sources in reporting the outcomes of and objections to the initiative.


We identify factors inherent in the media's internal environment that emerged as decisive for the campaign's later success. We compare these factors to a Trojan Horse, because they were largely imperceptible at the outset of Beyond Petroleum, but were carried by the media's employees and linked stakeholder media into the foreground of news media, regulatory and shareholder concerns. Our principal focus is on the emergence and empowerment of information sources. News media coverage is shaped, first and foremost, by the information available to reporters; without fresh information and sources to provide it, there is nothing new to report. A key part of our argument is that a corporate responsibility policy changes the nature and number of information sources that are considered legitimate by news media. Equally important, this change coincides with and is driven by a shift in the nature of media: namely, the proliferation and professionalisation of stakeholder media, published by partisan participants in and observers of organisational actions. The locus of media relations thus shifts from a binary to a network relationship in a complex, dynamic system, in which multiple actors may input information and action (Rolland, 2010).

Though widely contested and in some cases ridiculed, as we shall see, the campaign was also repeatedly saluted in the press as an example of successful and effective ...
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