Culture, Opinion

The UK’s Digital Journalism Landscape From An Ethical Perspective – Balancing Freedom of The Press With Professional Obligation

Nmesoma Okwudili


April 22, 2023

Journalism in the UK has undergone significant digital transformations in recent years, with the rise of online news sources and social media as vital sources of information for the public. This transformation has brought about both opportunities and challenges for the industry, including adapting to changing audience behaviours, addressing the spread of fake news, and grappling with ethical issues in the digital age.

The Digital Transformation of Journalism 

The internet and digital technology have disrupted traditional media industries, forcing them to adapt or decline. The UK is no exception, with many newspapers and media outlets revamping their hiring and communication strategies to meet the demands of today’s digital age. Instead of print newspapers, consumers receive their news via smartphones, tablets, and computers. The rise of social media has also led to new challenges and opportunities for journalists as they try to engage with audiences across multiple platforms.

However, the digital transformation of journalism also presents challenges. The speed at which news can be disseminated means that journalists must be extra careful to ensure that they are reporting accurate information. They also need to be aware of their sources, as it is easy for misinformation to spread rapidly online.

One recent study published in Digital Journalism explores how technological innovation has enabled new journalistic practices and transformed the profession’s ideology and self-perception. The study emphasises the importance of understanding how technological developments are changing the field and how journalists can adapt to stay relevant in the digital age.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also significantly impacted digital journalism in the UK. A 2021 article in The Conversation discusses how the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital platforms for news delivery. Many news organisations are forced to shift to remote work and virtual newsrooms.

However, the shift to digital media has also led to challenges in the form of fake news and the spread of misinformation. 

The Rise of Fake News

The rise of fake news has become a significant concern for the journalism industry. In the UK, fake news has been used to influence elections and sway public opinion on important issues. This has led to calls for greater regulation of social media platforms and increased responsibility for journalists to fact-check and verify sources.

Fake news has become a growing concern in the UK, affecting younger consumers. According to data, nearly 60 per cent of 12-to-15-year-old children used social media as a news source, and some even saw fake news there. The BBC has also been covering fake news, with articles discussing the warnings over a rise in extremism post-pandemic and the history of fake news. In addition, researchers from Princeton, Dartmouth, and the University of Exeter estimated that about 25 per cent of Americans visited a fake news website during the 2016 US presidential election, highlighting the global nature of the issue. Finally, the Cambridge Analytica scandal also involved planting fake news, further emphasising the need for vigilance and caution when consuming information.

Media Ethics

Media ethics are more important than ever in the digital age. Journalists must maintain high standards of integrity and accuracy in their reporting, regardless of their platform. The Society of Professional Journalists in the UK has a code of ethics outlining the values and principles journalists should adhere to. This includes a commitment to accuracy, fairness, and impartiality in reporting.

With laws restricting journalists from reporting things that may harm or damage other people or organisations. The UK has also seen recent controversies surrounding media ethics, including the Chris Cuomo scandal at CNN, which highlighted the issue of dual loyalties for journalists. Several publications discuss media ethics in the UK, including the book “Ethics and the Media: An Introduction,” which provides a comprehensive overview of media ethics and its relevance in the contemporary media landscape. Additionally, some researchers argue that governmental drafting and industry-wide compliance with media ethics are necessary to uphold democratic deliberations in the UK.

The digital transformation of journalism in the UK has presented challenges and opportunities for the industry. While social media has provided a new platform for journalists to engage with audiences, it has also given rise to fake news and the need for increased regulation. Media ethics are also more critical than ever, as journalists must navigate a rapidly changing media landscape while maintaining their commitment to accuracy and integrity.

In short, the changing face of journalism in the UK is a complex and multi-faceted issue. However, by embracing digital technology while maintaining high ethical standards, journalists can continue to provide accurate and informative news coverage to the public.

While the industry has grappled with new challenges related to fake news and media ethics, technological innovations have also enabled new forms of journalism and transformed the profession in significant ways. As the industry continues to evolve, it will be essential for journalists and news organisations to adapt to new technologies and embrace new ways of thinking about the role of journalism in society.


  • “It is a golden rule of journalism, taught to any news reporter at the beginning of their career – your introduction should grab the reader straight away. If you cannot hold someone’s attention…” URL:
  • “The dominating presence of social media has led to a decline in demand for traditional print journalism. The business model of the news media is ‘broken’, and with it, our fundamental right to information is at risk, a new UNESCO report examining global trends in freedom of expression warns. In the past five years, both news audiences and …” URL:
  • “Traditional journalism has changed profoundly with the onset of digital — newspapers and media outlets have had to completely revamp how they hire, market and communicate the news. How it’s changed In lieu of an actual newspaper in hand, consumers receive the same stories in an email to be read on a smartphone, tablet or computer.” URL:
  • “SPJ Code of Ethics. Revised September 6, 2014, at 4:49 p.m. CT at SPJ’s National Convention in Nashville, Tenn. Download a printable copy [PDF]: 8.5×11 flyer | 11×17 poster | Two-sided bookmark. Preamble. Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of …” URL:
  • “things about the performance of a nation s news media system or the global news media system. The global nature of today s news media immerses journalism ethics in the macro issues of political morality, including issues of power, inequality, media ownership and diversity, digital divides, and how news media cover global issues.” URL: 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles