A portrait of journalists working in Algerian daily newspapers in the new millennium

Farid Mouzai

Abstract

The present study is based on a national survey of 177 journalists working in Algerian daily newspapers during the spring of 2010. The purpose of this research project is to investigate their demographic backgrounds, professional attitudes, and values, as well as their working conditions and job satisfaction. Comparisons between Algerian journalists and their American and Egyptian counterparts were conducted and suggestions and recommendations are offered. The results of this study reveal that the typical Algerian journalist is a 31-year-old male, who is likely to be single, with a university education. The Algerian journalist is likely to have majored in journalism, has relatively little experience in the field of journalism, has received limited training after employment, is interested in continuing education, and is sparsely involved in professional organizations. The Algerian journalist enjoys freedom in choosing and emphasizing aspects of stories, but is constrained by influences outside the profession. Politically, the Algerian journalist is middle-of-the-road and does not belong to a political party. Finally, the Algerian journalist is underpaid, but fairly satisfied with his or her job and plans to stay with same newspaper in the future. Regarding the role of mass media in society, Algerian journalists believe that getting information to the public quickly and concentrating on news that is of interest to the widest possible public are the most salient functions of news media. In addition to the "disseminator" role of news media, the surveyed journalists also place an emphasis on the "populist mobilizer" function, such as helping to unify the country and developing intellectual, cultural, and linguistic interests of the public; though they nearly disregard entertainment as an important role of the news media. In terms of perceptions of ethical reporting, Algerian journalists are most uncomfortable with the practices of agreeing to protect confidentiality and not doing so, as well as making use of personal documents such as letters and photographs without permission. However, the respondents appear to be somewhat more tolerant of the practice of claiming to be someone else. A comparison of Algerian journalists with their American counterparts regarding news media functions indicates that although both groups agree on the importance of the disseminator role of media and the unimportance of entertainment role, they strongly disagree on the role of concentrating on the widest audience; Americans are much less likely to support this role than Algerians. Additionally, American journalists are more likely to emphasize the importance of investigative journalism or the "watch-dog" role than their Algerian counterparts. Regarding perceptions of ethics, American journalists are generally more likely to tolerate most of the controversial methods of obtaining information than their Algerian counterparts, except for the practice of claiming to be someone else. A comparison of Algerian journalists with their Egyptian counterparts regarding news media roles indicates that Algerians are more likely to support most of the functions of the media than the Egyptians, but they are less likely to acknowledge the importance of providing entertainment and relaxation to the public.