Conflict of interest: Hybrid journalism's central ethical challenge
Acute economic pressures on media, legacy and new alike, induced by digital transformation have contributed to the burgeoning of a class of news-like content that goes under various deceptive names such as 'hybrid journalism'. This challenges certain foundational assumptions on which ethical notions of editorial independence, conflict of interest and deception have rested for many decades. News-like content is not just about the promotion of commercial products and interests, which have generally been the focus of 'advertorials' in the past, but about politics, religion and ideology as well. These developments confront democratic societies, which depend on news media for a bedrock of reliable information on which to make choices as citizens, with a new and serious problem. This paper examines these foundational assumptions and ethical norms by reference to three case studies and concludes that long-term trust in media is being traded off for short-term financial gain
Keywords: of interest, deception, native advertising, sponsored content, hybrid journalism
Conflict of interest has become a structural ethical challenge for journalism, embedded now in the content-production processes. Whereas in pre-digital times it was recognised by journalists, publishers and broadcasters as a problem to be managed, now it is being deliberately built in to the work of journalists. A range of new categories of content has been developed by start-ups and established news media publishers alike, creating new sources of revenue but blurring the distinction between advertising and news content. The lexicon in which these categories are referred to is still evolving, but is replete with disarming and bamboozling names: hybrid journalism, native advertising, branded content, sponsored segments, and integrated content. One particular term, ‘brand journalism’, considered from the standpoint of conventional journalism ethics, is an oxymoron, embodying as it does a declaration that the journalism involved is inseparable from advertising content.
For the purposes of this article, the term ‘news-like content’ will be used to define these categories of material. They are news-like because although the exact mix of advertising, promotional and independent news content in any one of them is unknowable, the presentational techniques commonly used – story structure, language, typography and layout – create the impression that the content is news alone.
These developments mean that conflict of interest as an ethical problem in journalism today is of an order of magnitude greater than it was in the pre-digital era, when it was seen as something to be resisted rather than absorbed. Being vigilant against it was a permanent feature of newsroom management (Tanner et al. 2005: 190).
In this disorienting period of rapid change, discussion of an ethical concept such as conflict of interest might usefully begin with an exercise in which we get our bearings by referring to relevant definitions, principles and assumptions which underpin conventional thinking on the issue as it relates to the profession of journalism.
Conflict of interest defined
The conflict-of-interest concept has deep roots, even if the term itself is relatively new. The New Testament asserts, in the words of Matthew 6: 24, that no man can serve two masters, and in those of Luke 16: 13, that a man cannot serve both God and mammon. This describes one facet of the problem, that of a plurality of principles (Peters and Handschin 2012: 4). Another facet is summed up in the everyday phrase that no one should be judge and jury in his own cause. This imports ideals of independence and impartiality grounded in utilitarianism and contained in journalism codes of ethics globally. Where the subject is news-like content, both facets are relevant. Wasserman’s (2009: 229-241) definition incorporates key elements that seem particularly relevant:
Conflict of interest comprises a variety of instances where undeclared obligations or loyalties exist that might plausibly intervene between journalists and journalism organisations and the public they principally serve.
Wasserman identifies three characteristics: lack of disclosure (‘undeclared obligations or loyalties’), plausibility (in the sense that there is a rational basis for suspecting a conflict), and an organisational as well as an individual dimension. He has also drawn attention to the concept of competing loyalties (2010: 253).
Tanner et al. (2005: 187) identify three levels at which conflicts of interest may occur in media settings: institutional (arising from conflicts between editorial and commercial sides of a media organisation); process (which may occur, for example, through ‘capture’ of journalists by valued sources and contacts, or from pressure induced by gifts of such goods as travel), and personal (arising from individual loyalties).
It will be seen from the three case studies in this paper that lack of disclosure, plausibility and institutional culture are major factors in contemporary media’s conflict of interest problems.
The importance of managing and resisting conflicts of interest is reflected in journalism’s codes of ethics across the Western world, as noted by Keeble (2001) in his enumeration and analysis of the values underpinning these codes. Avoidance of such conflicts ranks with other core values such as fairness, separation of fact from opinion, factual and contextual accuracy, respect for people’s personal characteristics and privacy, and editorial independence.
Management of conflict of interest was part of a larger set of institutional arrangements inside media organisations that went under the rubric of ‘church and state separation’. Borrowed from constitutional principles enshrined in writing or by convention in many Western democracies, the concept of church and state separation in the journalistic context came to mean the separation of news copy from commercial content (Friend and Singer 2007: 181). It was the means by which the ideal of editorial independence was given effect to, allowing what C. P. Scott described as a newspaper’s moral and material existence (Muller, F. 1946) to live side-by-side, albeit with the inevitable tensions created by commercial and competitive pressures.
These arrangements were grounded in certain assumptions about the nature of news, the nature of journalism, the role of the news media in society, and the means by which commercial media could plausibly serve the public interest whilst maintaining material viability.
The nature of news
In his lapidary work, Public opinion, Lippman (1922: 338-357) strips the concept of news back to its bare essentials: ‘when the life of anyone … departs from ordinary paths, or when events worth telling occur’. What is ‘worth telling’ has been analysed and described many times and is now established as a set of professional norms known as news values (see, for example, McQuail 1994: 271 and Brighton and Foy 2007: 31-45). From these norms there follows an ethical principle, that material published as news should exhibit at least some of the characteristics of news. These characteristics are defined in news values. Material published as news that contains little or nothing by way of news values may rightly give rise to a question about the propriety of the motive for publishing it as news.
Lippmann further enlightens us with his insight that before something takes on the nature of news, it must enter a factual realm that takes it beyond mere rumour or speculation and in so doing manifests itself in a definable form – a fire, a riot, the introduction of a legislative Bill. He writes of news as thus assuming a definable shape. It then becomes a question of who does the shaping. In Lippmann’s now seemingly far-off world, the shaper is the ‘press agent’:
Were reporting the simple recovery of obvious facts, the press agent would be little more than a clerk. But since, in respect to most of the big topics of news, the facts are not simple and not at all obvious, but subject to choice and opinion, it is natural that everyone would wish to make his own choice of facts for the newspaper to print. The publicity man does that. … It follows that the picture which the publicity man makes for the reporter is the one he wishes the public to see. He is censor and propagandist …
Note, however, that in this model, which obtained for many decades, the publicity agent and the reporter are two different people and are assumed to have different responsibilities and interests: the publicity agent to his or her client in acting as censor or propagandist, the reporter to the public in providing the best available version of contemporary truth. In the world where news-like content is created, these two personas, with their often conflicting responsibilities and interests, merge into one.
Bull (2013: 74-83) has argued that ‘brand journalism’ is not necessarily unethical because it is open to brand journalists to adhere to the profession’s codes of ethics, but there is an inherent contradiction here. Typically, the codes require independence, impartiality and transparency, qualities that are by definition absent from brand journalism.
It may also be argued that in these new circumstances, the conflict of interest disappears because the interests and responsibilities are congruent and inhere in the one journalistic practitioner. This is a fallacy. It ignores the deception involved in making one thing, advertising or promotion, appear like another, news.
The nature of journalism
Journalism as a professional practice exhibits certain characteristics that enable the profession to keep the implied promises it makes to its audiences. To engage in journalism is to establish an implicit contractual relationship with the audience. This relationship contains promises about factual and contextual reliability, impartiality, independence, and separation of factual information from comment or opinion. If these promises are broken, society is robbed of something essential to the healthy functioning of democracy: a bedrock of trustworthy information people need to make informed choices as voters, consumers, and participants in social life (Muller, D. 2014: 3).
The standards that enable these promises to be kept are that factual material will be checked before publication to ensure its accuracy so far is it possible to know at the time; that factual material will be presented in a way that is contextually truthful and represents a fair portrayal of the people, events, organisations and ideas that are the subject-matter of the material; that an impartial assessment will have been made concerning the weight of evidence to be accorded to issues in contention; that the journalist will have brought an open mind to these tasks, and that the content will have been prepared independently of improper or distorting influences. By convention, these include political or commercial considerations, in particular the influence of powerful people or valuable advertisers.
These standards have been set out in codes of ethics for journalism across Western democracies for many decades (see, for example, Keeble 2001). They form the basis of contemporary assumptions among practitioners and the public alike about what constitutes journalism.
The role of news media in society
The functions the news media are understood to perform in society have been articulated with reasonable clarity for at least 70 years. A seminal influence, at least over modern practice and scholarship, was the analysis of news media functions by the United States Commission on the Freedom of the Press. In his summary and analysis of the commission’s report, one of its most influential members, William Ernest Hocking, wrote (1947: 224-232):
The functions of the press, typified by the news function, are ‘clothed with a public interest’. … One begins to speak of the ‘right’ of the public to have its news; this language has no necessary legal implications – a moral right lifts its head to announce an answering responsibility on the part of the institution.
The phrase ‘freedom of the press’ must now cover two sets of rights and not one only. With the rights of editors and publishers to express themselves there must be associated a right of the public to be served with a substantial and honest basis of fact for its judgments of public affairs.
A public right to an honest basis of fact for its news as concomitant with the phrase ‘freedom of the press’: this is a touchstone upon which the ensuing decades of practice and the development of professional ethical norms have been built. And it is on that foundation that other, more specific functions, were identified by the commission and have remained relevant to this day:
- provision of a truthful and contextually meaningful account of contemporary events;
- provision of a forum for the exchange of ideas and opinions;
- the holding up of a mirror to society;
- presenting and clarifying society’s goals, and
- giving a full account of the important things that are going on.
To these may be added the function of providing the basis for a shared conversation among citizens, and the general public-interest function of providing information necessary to the general public welfare.
It is the fulfilment of these functions that provides the basis for upholding press freedom and for giving recognition to the media’s claim to the status of a ‘fourth estate’, that of holding to account others in society who wield power.
A moral and material existence
Throughout history, media outlets have largely been private property. In the eighteenth century, after the licensing system in England had lapsed, privately owned newspapers multiplied, most enduringly The Times, which began life as the Universal Daily Register in 1785. It was conceived as an advertising sheet augmented by news with a largely commercial focus and was supported by the printing business of its proprietor, John Walter.
This was the template for other newspapers: journalism supported by commercial activities that were, on the whole, distinguishable from the editorial processes. The model was especially evident in the Anglophone democracies where the experience of England’s oppressive press licensing system had left an imprint on the political DNA. This was manifested in suspicion of government ownership or control of the press, and the placing of a high value on freedom of a press that was privately owned. This ideal was exemplified in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and was reflected too in the common law jurisdictions that had their roots in England (Hallam 1884).
But the necessity to generate revenue in order to sustain the journalism and return a profit to the owners had the effect of creating a commercial climate in which competition, so far from driving quality up, drove it down. These shortcomings were evidence of a corporate culture in which, as Richards (2005) said:
At any given moment in most major corporations one can find a vast array of vocabularies of motive and accounts to explain or excuse or justify expedient action.
In tension with these material pressures, the media also have, as C. P. Scott said, a moral existence. As Muller (1946) recounts, his way of describing this was to refer to the media as an institution that reflected and influenced the life of a whole community, and might affect ‘even wider destinies’. ‘It is, in its way, an instrument of government.’ By this, Scott did not mean that the media were tied into the processes of government but that they were part of the way in which free societies governed themselves. Tiffen (1994: 53-67) captured this idea with his statement that the mass media were the central political arena of contemporary liberal democracies, the link between the governors and the governed.
It was the recognition of this institutional function, combined with a self-interested response to political and community dissatisfaction at the way in which the press had allowed commercial considerations to influence the conduct of editorial operations, that gave rise to the development of the ‘church and state’ separation.
The effect of the digital revolution
The digital revolution, which began to have measurable effects on newspaper advertising revenues, at least in Australia, in about 2005 (Finkelstein et al. 2012: 301-314), has challenged those four assumptions on which the related ethical concepts of editorial independence, conflict of interest and deception have rested.
Evidence for this phenomenon is abundant. Simons (2013) reports on a range of news-like start-ups characterised by a mixture of idealism, altruism and financial insecurity. Williams et al. (2014), describing the state of hyperlocal news in the United Kingdom, reveal that while 56.7 per cent of hyperlocal publishers described their activity a journalism, among the sub-sample (43 per cent) who generated income from their activity, 31.1 per cent nominated ‘sponsored features’ as among their sources of revenue. The three brief case studies that follow illustrate the breadth and variety of these practices.
Case 1: The Atlantic and Scientology
In January 2013, The Atlantic published online an item headed ‘David Miscavige leads Scientology to milestone year’. The item began: ‘Under ecclesiastical leader David Miscavige, the Scientology religion expanded more in 2012 than in any 12 months of its 60-year history.’ Underneath this were the standard social-media sharing options for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and then a large full-colour photograph of Mr Miscavige surrounded by Scientology symbols.
Above the main headline in much smaller type but highlighted in a yellow bar were the words ‘sponsor content’ and a pale grey bar attached to it reading ‘What’s this?’ By mousing over this, a reader would reveal the following statement:
Sponsor Content is created by The Atlantic’s Promotions Department in partnership with our advertisers. The Atlantic editorial team is not involved in the creation of this content.
The item remained up on The Atlantic’s website for about 11 hours before an avalanche of criticism from staff and readers alike forced a take-down. The magazine then issued a frank apology beginning with the pungent statement, ‘We screwed up’. It admitted not having sufficiently thought through its policies concerning sponsored content and said it was working hard to put things right. However, it also said that it remained ‘committed to and enthusiastic about innovation in digital advertising’.
In a critique of this episode, the Poynter Institute (Moos 2013) raised a number of ethical challenges: What standards were applied for accepting sponsored content? How was sponsored content created? What safeguards exist to prevent conflicts between sponsored content and real editorial content? Is the process for moderating online comment on sponsored content the same as, or different from, the process for moderating comment on other content? How transparent is the publisher obliged to be with readers about the way sponsored content is handled?
This list does not exhaust the possibilities. A central challenge is this: what steps need to be taken to minimise the risk of a reader’s being duped into mistaking sponsored content for real editorial content – content that keeps the promises of journalism?
Clearly, The Atlantic failed this challenge spectacularly. The very phrase ‘sponsor content’ made no grammatical connection with the neighbouring material. To do so, it needed the participle ‘sponsored’ otherwise it might be read as simply a general label about sponsors at large. Requiring the reader to mouse over a small pale grey panel to find out what it means was an exercise in opacity, not transparency.
To its credit, within a month of the original publication, The Atlantic published a revised set of policies concerning sponsored content. They focused on the key issue of transparency, and included a rule that a sponsor would have no role in moderating comments on sponsored content (Sonderman 2013).
Case 2: BuzzFeed and political sponsorship
In October 2012, the Obama for America movement became the first political group in the United States to experiment with native advertising (or sponsored content) for political purposes. In an analysis for NiemanLab of the content of these advertisements, Ellis (2012) described the campaign videos as looking similar to, if slightly less busy than, most posts on BuzzFeed. Rather like The Atlantic’s subdued labelling of its Scientology content, BuzzFeed’s presentation of the Obama campaign material carried a small yellow bar above the headline saying ‘Paid political content’. Although modest in size, this at least had the merit of being unambiguous in its meaning and of existing on the surface of the page, not hidden under a layer that needed to be peeled back by the reader. There was also a further panel under the introduction to the item saying ‘Political Ad Paid For By Obama for America’.
NiemanLab reported that unlike other cases of sponsored content, BuzzFeed’s staff was not involved in creating the content: the Obama campaign people simply put up campaign videos that had already been published on YouTube. On one hand, this eliminated the problem of having staff journalists involved in the creation of sponsored content, but it also created a problem of provenance: what is disclosed to the audience about the source and authoritativeness of the material?
In a further analysis of this case, Murtha and Gourarie (2015) raised a series of other questions. Noting that campaign advertising for the 2016 US elections was expected to be worth $US1 billion to publishers and broadcasters, an almost five-fold increase on the 2008 spend, they asked whether audiences would be able to distinguish between what they called ‘untethered’ political news and advertising ‘fluff’. They argued that when votes and public opinion were at stake, the issue was more pressing than when the product being sold was something like cat food.
BuzzFeed subsequently announced its intention to publish political sponsored content during the 2016 US election campaign (Warren 2015). Its vice-president, politics and advocacy, Rena Shapiro, said in a statement: ‘BuzzFeed is the top place millennials and influentials are reading and sharing news, and with the smart and thoughtful reporting from BuzzFeed Politics, there is a huge demand for political and advocacy groups to tap into that audience. From our shareable videos to our social posts, there’s a massive opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.’ The advertising content would be created in conjunction with BuzzFeed’s product and branded video teams from BuzzFeed Motion Pictures.
Case study 3: Mamamia
In 2007, an Australian journalist and author, Mia Freedman, founded the Mamamia website targeted at women. In the seven years to 2014, it built an audience, engaged with it and made a profit. Native advertising was a critical factor in its success. Freedman calls it integrated content and it is written by the editorial staff. Freedman is quoted as saying: ‘We know how to engage. And it does work. Where it can go wrong is when clients come in here thinking they want to do this and they want to do that, and we are, like, look, we know how to engage women online. Leave it to us.’ Clearly, then, at Mamamia the staff and publisher take ownership of, as well as creative responsibility for, the native advertising project.
An academic analysis of the Mamamia project (Cowcher-Guthrie 2014) found that native advertising, written by Mamamia writers but sponsored by advertisers, made frequent appearances on the website and on social media. She found that while the native advertisements took on the tone and voice of Mamamia editorial content, they were, in fact, about products that advertising clients were paying to promote.
Whilst some of this material was disclosed as ‘integrated content’, the disclosure was not always prominent. In several cases it appeared only after the second paragraph of what looked like a genuine (i.e. non-sponsored) editorial item. Cowcher-Guthrie also found that on social media, advertisements were completely disguised, with sponsored posts appearing on Facebook and Twitter with links that were not labelled as sponsored content yet which were identical to links to non-sponsored items. She found that the language and topics of the sponsored articles so closely resembled non-sponsored content that, without the labelling, it would be almost impossible to distinguish one from the other.
In one particular example, content that purported to be non-sponsored editorial content, in fact, exhibited the promotional characteristics of native advertising and straight public relations material. The item concerned the Dove range of products and Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. As Cowcher-Guthrie described it, Real Beauty was modelled on the feminist notion that women ought not be valued principally on the basis of their weight and appearance. Dove was an advertiser on Mamamia and its body-image-complex commodification of feminism reinforced the Mamamia brand of feminism that, according to the researcher’s interpretation, paid lip service to feminist issues such as women’s representation in advertising and media, but did not question or critique structural inequalities.
Items about Dove not labelled as sponsored content included a headline: ‘Share: The new Dove ad proves that being beautiful is just a state of mind’, with accompanying text reading: ‘Dove – the creators of many a beautiful viral video about women’s body image and body confidence – have another question for you.’ The words ‘viral video’, ‘body image’ and ‘body confidence’ were presented as links.
Another item, again presented as non-sponsored content, was headlined: ‘Watch: The new Dove ad that will make you think’, which explained that ‘The Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign encourages women to reassess how they see themselves’.
Mamamia’s overt and covert product endorsement, sometimes labelled as sponsored content and sometimes not, was found by the researcher to be an important factor in the website’s financial success.
In many respects, of course, this is simply an online version of that genre of largely ‘women’s’ magazines which for decades have mashed editorial and advertising content into a mélange from which it is impossible to disentangle the independent journalism – if any – from the promotional fluff. For that reason, perhaps the readers of this particular website are not duped. However, the evidence from an American survey (reported below) suggests that a large proportion of readers do struggle to recognise native advertising, even when it is labelled as such.
The problem of deception
Closely allied to conflict of interest is the further ethical problem of deception. The potential for sponsored content to dupe audiences was illustrated by the findings from a survey (n = 209) conducted in 2015 by a native-advertising technology company, TripleLift. The survey tested the perceptions of respondents to five versions of a native advertisement on a website, each with a different disclosure label. The data showed that 62 per cent of respondents did not realise they were looking at an advertisement (Moses 2015).
One example from Australia and several from the United States illustrate the deception problem. They also show that what a decade-and-a-half ago was considered to be unquestionably dishonest conduct is now accepted, indeed promoted, by large parts of the media.
In July 1999, the Australian Broadcasting Authority conducted an inquiry into the conduct of five commercial radio talkback hosts in receiving undisclosed payments from programme sponsors in return for making favourable comments about the sponsors that were presented to the audiences as if they were the hosts’ own genuinely held opinion. The practice became known as ‘cash for comment’.
In February 2000, the authority found that this conduct had led to 90 breaches of the broadcasting code of practice and five breaches of Sydney station 2UE’s licence conditions. The authority imposed three new standards on commercial broadcasters, including a requirement that they make on-air disclosures of any agreements between sponsors and programme hosts.
In the United States in 2005, a series of scandals erupted over the payment of fees to journalists in return for various services. As The Economist (2005) reported, Michael McManus, a syndicated columnist, received $US10,000 from the Department of Health and Human Services for helping to train marriage counsellors. Another syndicated columnist, Margaret Gallagher, received $US21,500 from the same department for helping to draft brochures, and a talk show host, Armstrong Williams, received $US241,000 to promote the ‘No Child Left Behind’ initiative. These journalists not only took the money but they continued to write and broadcast about these issues without disclosing them to their audiences. In these cases, deception and conflict of interest were intertwined.
Deception is also the principal criterion used by the Australian Press Council to determine complaints from newspaper readers concerning sponsored content (Weisbrot 2015). The council’s general position was spelt out in its adjudication of a complaint brought against the Sydney Morning Herald concerning its labelling of a supplement on Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN).
Whilst dismissing the gravamen of the complaint (Adjudication 1548, 2012), the council found that the label ‘special report’ did not assist substantially to provide adequate identification of the nature of the supplement. It went on to state that in the absence of a prominently displayed ‘unequivocal branding’ of such supplements, there was a substantial risk that a publisher would breach those principles of the Press Council concerning disclosure of vested interests and conflict of interest.
Whatever terms are used to describe news-like content, it is ubiquitous in online media and in legacy media alike. It presents pressing ethical challenges to the profession of journalism and to the media as an industry concerning conflict of interest and deception, and mocks the concept of editorial independence. Ethical norms concerning these issues are grounded in assumptions about the nature of news, the nature of journalism, the role of the news media and the processes by which media manage the tensions between their public-interest responsibilities and commercial imperatives. As a consequence of the burgeoning of news-like content, these assumptions are themselves under challenge.
There are large stakes here because these assumptions provide the foundation for the institutional place of journalism in the functioning of a democratic polity.
The terminology surrounding news-like content is clearly designed to disguise the real nature of the material, and this itself is prima facie deceptive conduct. Whilst far from perfect, the term ‘native advertising’ at least has the merit of including the word ‘advertising’ and is preferable to the questionable term ‘hybrid journalism’, and the elliptical ‘integrated content’, ‘sponsored content’ or ‘branded content’.
Where conflicts of interest exist, a declaration is usually the bare minimum ethical requirement. However, where staff writers whose job is ostensibly journalism are assigned to create this content, a bare declaration will not be enough. Audiences are entitled to know the provenance of the material because whatever else this work might be called, it is not journalism.
While some scholars (for example, Carr et al. 2014) draw a distinction between ‘mainstream’ and ‘citizen’ journalism in this regard, in fact the problem is common to both, as the case studies in this paper show.
Moreover, the phenomenon is now reaching out beyond standard product endorsement to material about religion, ideology and politics. As a result, while disclosure of the true nature of the material is a minimum requirement, it might not always be sufficient. The level of integration between journalists and sponsors, responsibility for authorship of the material, and disclosures about the way comments are moderated are other essential requirements. This is especially the case where the content concerns politics. Voters are entitled to know exactly whose material they are reading and whose ideas are being promoted. The core journalistic function of informing voters is in danger of being surreptitiously suborned.
The economics of advertising no doubt go some way to explaining the desperation evident in these attempts by publishers to find new ways of making money. The Pew Research Center (Mitchell 2014) reports that while traditional advertising from print and television still accounts for more than half the revenue supporting journalism, total newspaper advertising fell 49 per cent between 2003 and 2013. So new media and old media alike have an equivalent stake in pursuing any new possibility. News-like content represents just such a possibility.
In pursuing it, the media and elements of the journalism profession seem prepared to trade off long-term trust for short-term profit. It is, in effect, another example of the Richards (2005) dictum: that a vast array of vocabularies of motive and accounts is drawn upon to explain, excuse or justify expedient action.
- Australian Press Council (2012) Adjudication number 1548 Paul Fletcher/Sydney Morning Herald, 4 September. Available online at http://www.presscouncil.org.au, accessed on 18 December 2018
- Brighton, Paul and Foy, Dennis (2007) News values, London, Sage
- Bull, Andy (2013) Brand journalism, London, Taylor and Francis
- Tanner, Stephen; Phillips, Gail; Smyth, Chris and Tapsell, Suellen (2005) Journalism ethics at work, Sydney, Pearson Longman
- Carr, Jason, Barnidge, Matthew, Lee, Byung Gu and Tsang, Stephanie (2014) Cynics and skeptics: Evaluating the credibility of mainstream and citizen journalism, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 9, No 3 pp 452-470
- Chemi, Eric (2014) Advertising's century of flat-line growth, Bloomberg, 3 March 2014. Available online at http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-03-03/advertisings-century-of-flat-line-growth, accessed on 16 December 2015
- Cowcher-Guthrie, Lucy (2014) Mamamia, native advertising and the commodification of feminism. Unpublished Master's thesis, Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne
- Economist (2005) Fourth estate or fifth column, 5 February
- Ellis, Justin (2012) BuzzFeed adapts its branded content approach to political advertising, and Obama's in, NiemanLab, 24 October. Available online at http://www.niemanlab.org/2012/10/buzzfeed-adapts-its-branded-content-approach-to-political-advertising-and-obamas-in, accessed on 16 December 2015
- Finkelstein, Ray and Ricketson, Matthew (2012) Report of independent inquiry into media and media regulation, Australian Government Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
- Friend, Cecilia and Singer, Jane (2007) Online journalism ethics, New York, M. E. Sharpe
- Hallam, Henry (1884) The constitutional history of England, Vol. I, London, John Murray
- Hocking, William (1947) Freedom of the press, Chicago, Chicago University Press
- Keeble, Richard (2001) Ethics for journalists, London, Routledge
- Lippmann, Walter (1922) Public opinion, New York, Macmillan
- McQuail, Denis (1994) Mass communication theory, London, Sage
- Mitchell, Amy (2014) State of the news media 2014, Pew Research Center, 26 March 2014. Available online at http://www.journalism.org/2014/03/26/state-of-the-news-media-2014, accessed on 13 December 2015
- Moos, Julie (2013) The Atlantic publishes and then pulls sponsored content from Church of Scientology, Poynter.org, 15 January. Available online at http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/200593/the-atlantic-pulls-sponsored-content-from-church-of-scientiology, accessed on 13 December 2015
- Moses, Lucia (2015) How native advertising labelling confuses people, in 5 charts, Digiday.com, 4 May. Available online at http://digiday.com/publishers/5-charts-show-problem-native-ad-disclosure, accessed on 16 December 2015
- Muller, Denis (2014) Journalism ethics for the digital age, Melbourne, Scribe Publications
- Muller, Frederick (1946) The making of the Manchester Guardian, Frederick Muller, London
- Murtha, Jack and Gourarie, Chava (2015) Do BuzzFeed's native political ads cross a line?, Columbia Journalism Review, 23 November. Available online at http://www.cjr.org/analysis, accessed on 12 December 2015
- Peters, Anne and Handschin, Lukas (2012) Conflict of interest in global, public and corporate governance, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
- Richards, Ian (2005) Quagmires and quandaries: Exploring journalism ethics, Sydney, UNSW Press
- Simons, Margaret (ed.) (2013) What's next in journalism?, Melbourne, Scribe Publications
- Sonderman, Jeff (2013) Atlantic introduces sponsored content guidelines that address the Scientology incident, Poynter, 30 January. Available online at http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/202316/atlantic-introduces-sponsored-content-guidelines-that-address-the-Scientology-incident, accessed on 13 December 2015
- Tanner, Stephen, Phillips, Gail, Smyth, Chris and Tapsall, Suellen (2005) Journalism ethics at work, Sydney, Pearson Longman
- Tiffen, Rodney (1994) The media and democracy: reclaiming an intellectual agenda, Schultz, Julianne (ed.) Not just another business, Sydney, Pluto Press pp 53-67
- Warren, James (2015) BuzzFeed enters potentially lucrative, ethically tricky world of native political ads, Poynter.org, 12 October. Available online at http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/378222/buzzfeed-enters-potentially-lucrative-ethically-tricky-world-of-native-political-ads, accessed on 13 December 2015
- Wasserman, Edward (2009) Conflict of interest enters a new age, Wilkins, Lee and Christians, Clifford (eds) The handbook of mass media ethics, Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge/Sydney, University of New South Wales Press pp 229-241
- Wasserman, Edward (2010) A robust future for conflict of interest, Meyers, Christopher (ed.) Journalism ethics: A philosophical approach, Oxford, Oxford University Press pp 69-80
- Weisbrot, David (2015) Friend or foe? Brand journalism. Paper delivered to the 2015 conference of the Journalism Educators and Researchers Association of Australia, 2 December
- Williams, Andy, Barnett, Steven, Harte, Dave and Townend, Judith (2014) The state of hyperlocal community news in the UK: Findings from a survey of practitioners, London, Arts and Humanities Research Council
Note on the contributor
Dr Denis Muller is a senior lecturer in politics and journalism at the University of Melbourne. He practised as a journalist for 27 years, mostly on the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, Melbourne. His special research interests centre on media ethics, and he was a consultant to the Finkelstein Inquiry into Media Regulation, conducted in Australia in 2011-12, contributing sections on press theory, codes of ethics, and media performance. In 2014, he published Journalism ethics for the digital age (Scribe, Melbourne). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613 8344 9439 or 61419 414 121.