Credit: By Roger H Goun on Flickr. Some rights reserved

More than half of UK journalists would push boundaries to get a story, according to a report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford released today (9 May).

Some 53 per cent of the British journalists surveyed said it is justified to pay for confidential information in the public interest, compared to just 5 per cent of American respondents.

The UK-focused study, which was part of a wider project that involved over 60 countries and 22,000 journalists, surveyed 700 UK journalists via email in December 2015.

Additionally, 81 per cent of the 700 surveyed journalists believed it was acceptable to use confidential business or government documents without permission when stories are in the public interest – comparing with that of 58 per cent of American reporters.

The study, titled 'Journalists in the UK', examined reporters' views on the ethics and practices of journalism, how they regard their role, pay and diversity within the profession, who journalists trust, and the changing pressures of the news environment.

Dr Neil Thurman, author of the report and professor of communication at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, said he found some of the findings surprising, such as the lack of ethic diversity in UK journalism, the wide pay gap between male and female workers, the lack of multi-skilled reporters in the digital age, and the low pay across the profession.

"We found that about twice as many journalists believe that their editorial freedom had decreased over time, than believe it to have increased," said Thurman.

"Some other data from the study gave clues as to why they might be feeling that – for example we found that 41 per cent of journalists said the audience data and research on what audiences like to read is now very or extremely important.

"And we also found that nearly two thirds of journalists felt that the influence of public relations had increased over the last five years."

The study also highlighted:

  • More than half of the journalists surveyed now work online, with the proportion of journalists in the UK working in digital versions of newspapers rising from 26 per cent to 52 per cent since 2012.

  • A high proportion of journalists are studying the trade at university, with 64 per cent of those who entered the profession in the last five years having a degree in journalism or a related field, compared with 51 per cent of journalists in the previous five-year period.

  • 77 per cent of journalists said that being a detached observer was ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’ – journalists see themselves as providers of accurate information and analysis, as opposed to being an adversary of government, or supporting national development.

  • 45 per cent of UK journalists see it as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important to provide news that attracts the largest audience – a higher proportion than found in a survey of US journalists six years ago, which the report says may be partly explained by the increased financial pressures on the media industry.

Hear Thurman discuss the results of the report in more depth below.

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