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    Media and Public Credibility: Advertisers before Ethics - Where are the media going?

    “The media are stumbling to an uncertain future, but good and serious journalism must inevitably come back”

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    Author: Berislav Jurič

     “I have been working in the media industry my whole life and I cannot pinpoint the moment when the media lost their power, when they fell on the knees and allowed to be stepped over by whoever wishes - agencies and advertisers”, wrote once Ekrem Dupanović, Regional Marketing Expert.

    And in fact, the media have consciously or not caved under the pressure allowing for their editorial policy to be taken over by people from marketing, who want the marketing space always sold out, and people from agencies who want to sell ever more commercials of their clients. In this silent takeover, the media have, as Dupanović claims, “lost a lot on quality” and fell into an enchanted circle.

    Media expert, Mehmed Halilović notes that marketing is an essential part of our lives and thus an unavoidable part of media management: “Marketing is obviously more and more a factor that ‘edits’ and ‘shapes’ our lives as well as the media. I am afraid that this will be even more so in the future”, he stated.

    Daniela Jurčić, professor of journalism at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University in Mostar says that journalism, in addition to politics, is mainly influences by advertisers: “Without a doubt, advertisers have great influence on the objectivity of media, and journalism has unfortunately been reduced to a race for profit, while ethics standards, professionalism and media credibility are significantly endangered. In this entire process, the journalists are the biggest victims, who are placed under enormous pressure because they are the ones who need to create a profit and attract advertisers. It is of the utmost importance that the media be professionalized and taken out from under control of any kind,” says Jurčić. She emphasizes that journalists area under various pressures and that when performing their job they are more often influenced by outside subjects rather than the requirements of the profession.

    Journalist Sanja Bjelica Šagovnović has a different experience. She says that, if we take into account all factors contributing to the endangerment of journalism ethics, there are more other factors with negative consequences than advertisers: “Advertiser in any case, when it is in their interest, react with their requests towards the media houses, but these situations, at least by my experience, are not so frequent, nor are they always such that they endanger journalism ethics.” She says that journalism is partly being destroyed by the chase of clicks in online media, which effects the quality of articles: “If on top of the race for clicks, ratings and money we add the fact that newsrooms are working with less and less journalists, than it is clear that the quality and professionalism of journalism is deteriorating,” holds Bjelica Šagovnović.  

    Prof. Jurčić stated that media tabloidization and the continuous fight for profit have brought to the significant fall in professional journalist standards in BiH, and the entire region. “Journalism amounts to bare reporting today, easy and gossipy stories, flash news and a lot of photos. Information has become the source of profit and its quality is declining. The masses are offered bad journalism based on tabloid stories, and it is even sadder that the public wants more and more of such content. Media users are accepting kitsch and trash, without thinking about the harm of such contents.”

    Andrijana Pisarević, editor in chief of the portal Srpskacafe.com warns that the media are often torn between the real information and what marketing workers push to be published or not: “There is not a person who does not call themselves ‘media editor’ today, and so do the marketing leaders. We live in a small pond full of crocodiles and often we must know how to juggle between reality and opportunity. Good marketing is the life source of any business, and so the media’s, and it is logical that it demands dancing to its tune. Marketing will not allow us to bite the hand that feeds,” she said and added that, regardless of the stories on ethics in journalism, she feels that “there is no media without a ‘black list’”.  

    The problem also lies with the legislative regulation, which allows the media to swim in murky waters. Such swimming is sometimes the only way for newsrooms to survive. However, both speakers note that they are not convinced that better legislative regulation would bring improvements to the conditions in the media and lead to more responsible and professional journalism.  

    “The media legislation is generally good. The problem is the inadequate implementation of almost all laws. I think that the new laws, such as the Law on Transparency of Media Ownership, would not be adequately implemented in the journalism practice. I think that for the well-being of journalism in BiH we have to insist for an adequate implementation of the law as well as for an effective enforcement of regulatory mechanisms,” says Jurčić.

    One of the problems on the media scene in BiH is the occurrence of internet portals without known editors, owners, while there is clear suspicion in shady affairs and open talk about certain existing only to serve certain currents, be it political or business, to achieve their goals or make money through such a murky advertising platform.   

    Bjelica Šagovnović is also not sure that the laws would improve the situation in this regard: “I am not sure that passing of the law in question would significantly influence these knockoff portals. The ones who do serious business and journalism are registered in certain ways. However, passing these laws would certainly contribute to transparency on the media market, especially with regards to financing from public budgets,” she said.

    Media financing from public funds is an inexhaustible topic where media experts warn about the endless sources of political influence on the media, as well as about the taking of money from various budgets for political subjects in the land. It is not secret that certain media are controlled by advertisement of businesses lead by party persons, thus tying the media’s hands and shutting its mouth. All this influences the quality of information published as well as the trust people have towards the media, which should be one of the more stable pillars of every society.  

    “Where are the media going?”, asks professor Jurčić. “I think that the media are stumbling to an uncertain future, but good and serious journalism must inevitably come back, and create media users that will seek quality media and quality media contents,” she concludes.

     

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