Challenging Neo-Journalism: Professional and ethical standards applied by mission-driven online media start-ups in Bulgaria

Abstract Submitted to the CEECOM2015 – The Central and Eastern European Media and Communication Conference, Zagreb, Croatia,12-14 June 2015
Authors: Pavel P Antonov, pavelan [at] bluelink [dot] net* and Diana Trifonova, diana [at] bluelink [dot] net**

Marked by sharp decline of freedom of speech and weakening commitment to nature protection, minority and human rights, Bulgaria’s contemporary journalistic ‘field’ demonstrates changing features similar to the ones observed by Pierre Bourdieu back in 1998. Journalism changes under the pressure of commercial interests and related factors that make it increasingly difficult for journalists to comply with societal and democratic professional norms related to Fourth estate theory. The practices and norms of Bulgarian journalism change to accommodate these pressures, particularly in mainstream media outlets. But this trend does not remain unchallenged, as various outlets and individual journalists in Bulgaria struggle to maintain the watchdog functions of journalism. Relatively high internet speed and ever broadening access to the web offer affordable media technology to independent journalistic projects. Employing a set of social research methods we study the similarities and differences between five recent online media start-ups which aspire to stand for and defend public interest. These are: Ne!;;; and Examining their commitments to, interpretations of, and practical implementations of professional ethical journalism, we compare these projects in terms of: ethical and professional standards of journalism that they adhere to; their underlying professional and political ideologies; and their understanding and response to the domination of market and business values over environmental, democratic, humanist or social equality considerations.
* Pavel Antonov, PhD, is the Executive Editor and Co-founder of the BlueLink Foundation in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Affiliate Member of the OpenSpace Research Centre at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK.
** Diana Trifonova is a Research Associate at the BlueLink Foundation in Sofia, Bulgaria.