Perspectives on
Media Research

Title chapter: "You have access to all of it." Assessing documentary participation through an ethics of care
Author: Erika Theissen Walukiewicz
Keywords: care ethics, documentary, television, subject-filmmaker relationship, long-form
Abstract: Different media genres generate distinct ethical challenges. While the professional journalistic ideal includes a distance from one’s sources, the intimacy and longevity of the storyteller-subject encounter in extensive factual formats challenge such a distance. In an attempt to acknowledge such diversity, this chapter looks beyond professional ethical frameworks to allow for a receptive and context-sensitive reflection on media ethics. In the context of the television documentary, I propose care ethics as a way of honouring subjects’ interests without compromising storytellers’ autonomy. Based on the assumption that media ethics would benefit from increased attention to the subject experience, the focus of this chapter is on the documentary subject. Following care ethical assumptions, I suggest that paying attention to subjects’ interests makes for increasingly informed ethical considerations on the part of the practitioner within long-form factual storytelling, such as documentary filmmaking and narrative journalism. Based on in-depth interviews with documentary subjects, this chapter traces concerns relating to participation in Swedish television documentaries. I present an array of subject interests ranging from the transmission of a message to the relationship with the filmmaker, and the protection of a third party. Besides adding empirical knowledge about the experience of participation, this chapter highlights the potential of care ethics within a media context.
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Media and
Summer School