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Brown Envelope Journalism: The Contradiction Between Ethical Mindset and Unethical Practice

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Abstract

Using the case of brown envelope journalism (informal gratitude offered to journalists), this chapter discusses the discrepancy between theory and practice in African journalism ethics. The chapter offers a synthesis of research conducted on journalistic bribery in sub-Saharan Africa since around 2005. Two major interpretations are identified: the professionalist approach, which focuses on causes and remedies of brown envelope journalism; and the culturalist approach, which focuses on brown envelope journalism as cultural practice. The chapter criticizes both approaches for tending to downplay the distinction between journalistic practice, which often can be unethical, and the journalistic mindset, which typically testifies to positive ethical awareness. The chapter also presents recent research results from Ethiopia, where young reporters with short professional experience are found to be most likely to say that they will accept money from sources, with an overrepresentation of male journalists and reporters in the private media in this respect.
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... This exclusion is a detriment to democracy, as they provide audiences with a limited reality of the political space. Furthermore, this research explores a long-lasting academic discussion about monetary incentive-driven political coverage in African journalism (see, for example, Skjerdal 2010Skjerdal , 2018Osman 2017;Sampaio-Dias 2019), as interviewees explained that the inability to pay for coverage resulted in political invisibility in the media. ...
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No AbstractJournal of Language, Technology and Entrepreneurship in Africa Vol. 1 (1) 2007 pp. 151-164