While journalism adheres to an assumed universal ethical code and methodology, its goals and functions are essentially framed by local factors, and to an extent, existential imperatives. Discussions on what constitutes ‘best practices’ of journalism in the Asian context are ideologically polarized. For instance, governments in newly industrialized countries, such as Malaysia, and socialist bloc such as in Indochina and Myanmar, see the media more as a state apparatus and a prime mover of national development. Which conflicts with civil societies’ conception of professional journalism as a public trust, a representative of the ‘fourth estate’ – the common people – that keeps a close check on those in power. ‘Best practices’ is thus perceived and understood according to divergent expectations of what functions the media ought to serve in different societies.
This book eschews direct references to the Pulitzer-type criteria as the exclusive benchmarks of journalistic excellence. Instead it canvasses the scattered literature on best media practices for a cultural context and gathers the opinions of working journalists in Asia to grasp at these elusive benchmarks. The eclectic achievements of Asian journalists interviewed in this book show the varied – and at times notional forms of 'best practices' in the region. Dialogue and interviews with award-winning journalists are compiled to paint a clearer picture of what best practices mean from within Asian media realities. Structured conversations conducted through emails and on-camera at the respective journalists' workplace – in Manila, Mumbai, New Delhi, Jakarta -- delved into their personal, cultural and professional attributes. The conversations focused on the journalists' personal and professional values and purpose of what they do. Award-winning journalists were selected from countries known for their commitment to the tenets of press freedom such as India, the Philippines and Indonesia. Journalists from the three countries are known for their investigative journalism – often practised and executed at great risks to their personal safety.
A mix of methodologies was used to gather the empirical materials for this book:
a) A self-administered online questionnaire survey of newspaper journalists in Asia was sited at: www.journalismsurvey.com from April to September 2006. The survey was announced on the mailing list of the International Journalism Network, Asian Media Forum, and Inter Press Service. The survey gathered a set of qualitative data, which I hope would paint a broader picture of how journalists from developing Asian countries perceive the concept of best practices.
b) On-camera interviews with award-winning journalists in India, Philippines and Indonesia. The interviews focused on the journalists' capacity for directing their daily work towards serving their community, despite the unrelenting forces of rampant media corporatisation. [Appended below is the 40-minute video recording of the conversations with newspaper editors from the Philippines, India, Nepal, Malaysia and Indonesia, many of who have won regional and international awards for their work].
c) Commentaries by veteran journalists and educators on their perception of best practices of journalism in their respective country and how this notion can be taught to students across different political and cultural environments.
This book concludes that best practices in journalism are essentially culturally defined and best understood from within the realities that influence the socially transformative work by the Asian journalists who have built their professional career and won awards for their enterprising coverage of human development issues.