Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Robert Trager

Second Advisor

Stewart Hoover

Third Advisor

Michael McDevitt

Fourth Advisor

Peter Simonson

Fifth Advisor

Elizabeth Skewes

Abstract

Journalistic objectivity, a key journalism ethic in American newsrooms for much of the twentieth century, is a concept often taken for granted in journalism ethics. Despite its seemingly unimpeachable role in mainstream newsrooms, recent publications by media scholars and critics have interrogated the concept's continued applicability in today's more fluid, digitized media ecology. Little research, however, has clarified whether journalists continue to adhere to the objectivity standard in their work. Likewise, little research has investigated whether objectivity continues to be taught, or how educators address the concept in journalism ethics classrooms at the university level.

By interviewing journalists based in the Washington, D.C. area, this research assesses whether the concept has ever been reified as a practice within newsrooms. Additionally, it explores how and why objectivity challenges the way journalists construct their dual identities as reporters and as citizens, and how the concept influences the way reporters manage the impressions they make in order to adhere to prescribed public expectations for press behavior.

By interviewing university educators who specialize in teaching journalism ethics, this research explores how educators address the concept of objectivity to their students. It also explores alternative conceptualizations of the term by educators, particularly transparency, pragmatic objectivity, and the critical political-economist perspective.

This research exposes an important construct for future journalism research: the modern media ecology, which is both horizontally and vertically fluid. The modern media ecology parallels the rise of a post-Fordist American society, signaling an epistemic shift in journalism away from a professionalized, objective model to a more subjective, "fair" reporting model. In essence, the waning of journalistic objectivity is only a symptom of much larger socio-economic changes underway in not only journalism, but in communication work as a whole. In response, journalism education at American universities is experiencing an epistemic shift of its own. This research ends with an exploration of how post-Fordist ideology has impacted journalism education at the University of Colorado, as the University seeks to build a new interdisciplinary college that better fits the new fluid media ecology.

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