Media as Watchdogs of Public Interest

Seminar for Macedonian journalists organised by the Skopje School of Journalism and Public Relations, Media Diversity Institute and the Ethical Journalism Network. 30-31 March 2017


  1. This storify brings together the resources and subjects covered in a two-day seminar for Macedonian journalists focusing on exploring new ways for media to be watchdogs of public interest and play a proactive and constructive role in media literacy. For more information contact @TomLawMedia.
  2. Defining media literacy

  3. This section and others draws on the EJN’s work with UNESCO on media literacy. Read the full report here:
  4. What is meant by public interest journalism?

  5. Ethics 101: What is Journalism And Who Is A Journalist?
  6. Media literacy as an inspiration for public interest journalism

    What role can journalists can play to improve media literacy in their audiences? How have other broadcasters approached media literacy? What are the benefits to the news organisation in terms of trust in their news brand?
  7. What are the five core values of journalism?

  8. The difference between free expression and journalism

  9. The Difference Between Free Expression And Journalism
  10. What is the "public interest"?

  11. Martin Wainwright, the Guardian's northern editor: "I'd say public interest means the fundamental health of a free society, and that it is always served by the truth and damaged by the failure to tell it. That includes telling the truth about individuals whose privacy is inevitably and rightly reduced if they become of interest to the public because of celebrity, public service, crime, etc."
    Valten78 posted: "It's a difficult balancing act … For example, it may be hard to argue that vacuous 'who's shagging whom' stories could be thought of as being in the public interest (as opposed to being of interest to the public). If we are talking about footballers it's really just tittle tattle, if however we are talking about a politician who is campaigning on a 'family values' platform, then it's a perfectly legitimate story."

  12. David Leigh, the Guardian's chief investigations editor: "Information is in the public interest if it assists in the proper functioning of a democracy."
  13. This is an idea reflected in the BBC's editorial guidelines, which state the public interest includes, "… disclosing information that assists people to better comprehend or make decisions on matters of public importance".
  14. Beyond that addition, it would be a mistake to attempt to nail down one definition.
  15. Andrew Sparrow, the Guardian's award-winning blogger, deserves the final word: "I'm wary about attempts to define it or to pin it down, partly because I think this could end up being restrictive, but mainly because our view of what the public interest entails changes quite dramatically over time and I think, as journalists, we should be willing to fight the public-interest battle on a case-by-case basis. For example, 50 years ago it was assumed that there was a public interest in knowing that an MP was gay, but little or no public interest in whether he drove home drunk, hit his wife or furnished his house using wood from non-sustainable sources. Now, obviously, it's the other way round. Society does – and should – constantly redefine what the public interest entails and journalism should be part of that."
  16. A Public Interest Case Study From the UK

  17. Listen to this debate from 10''55'' to 18''45''
  18. Did the story meets the public interest test?
  19. Why did the next story not meet the public interest test?