Business and Financial Journalism in the Arab world: Same Issues, Different Contexts


Abstract: After the financial crisis of 2008, both practitioners and scholars of journalism came with the broad consensus that business and financial reporting was not fit for purpose and had failed to comply with its normative role of being a Watchdog to power (Knowles, Phillips, & Lidberg, 2017; Schifferes & Roberts, 2014; Schiffrin, 2015; Starkman, 2014). Since then, there has been a significant focus in understanding why in this particular area or news beat has news reporting failed to fulfil the ethical aspirations of bringing about transparency and accountability on these issues. However, little attention has been placed upon the state of business and financial news reporting in the Global South (Behrman, Canonge, Purcell, & Schiffrin, 2012; Schiffrin, 2009) and even less to the way Arab news media cover these topics. Consequently, our paper explores the nature and characteristics of business journalism in the Arabian Gulf. In so doing, the paper analyses how none-democratic political settings and Islamic religious-cultural context may determine professional autonomy and fulfilment of normative aspirations in the Middle East. The paper is based on research that triangulates content analysis from national newspapers and semi-structured interviews with journalists in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The overall data suggest that inconsistencies between the normative professional aspirations of business journalists and their actual outputs have more to do with root-causes such as lack of training and expertise in finance as well as closeness to the news sources than with the influence of Islamic culture or even the undemocratic nature of the political systems in which reporters operate. In this sense, our conclusion is that Arab journalists share more with their Western counterparts in terms of the challenge they face with regards to reporting business and finances that what is often acknowledge in scholarly research.

Keywords: Islam, Authoritarianism, Arab Gulf, finance, business profession autonomy, journalism


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