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Toward the development of a model for journalism ethics instruction (media).

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Deni Elliott

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Literature pertaining to journalism ethics and journalism ethics instruction suggests a lack of clarity and agreement as to what constitutes ethics in the profession and what ought be considered appropriate journalism ethics instruction. Here, I integrate theories from philosophy, journalism and education to develop a comprehensive model for pre-professional journalism ethics instruction. I assume that the primary function of U.S. journalism is gathering and presenting "the new". Confining my discussion of journalist to purveyors of "the news", I first propose a tri-foundational theory of journalism ethics.The first foundation from which to draw obligations for news organizations and individuals comprising those organizations is the relationship of press to society. I argue that the press has responsibilities to readers based on the power held by the media and by the promise representatives of the media have made to the public. I argue that purveyors of the news comprise an indentifiable group and that members of that group are obligated to uphold shared values which can be shown to be essential to the public trust necessary for media function. This basis for determining obligations to fellow practitioners is the second foundation of the theory. Each journalist is, above all, an autonomous moral agent, capable of choosing action and morally accountable for actions chosen. The third foundation of the theory is the individual moral system of each practitioner. I propose that adequate journalism ethics instruction will include attention to all three foundations from which one may determine journalistic responsibilities. In addition, I argue that educators of pre-professional students have obligations to their students and to the profession. Educators necessarily teach journalist values as part of the curriculum. A separate and comprehensive course in professional ethics is needed to introduce students to the various foundations and justificatory processes associated with each and to assist students in discerning those values which are truly essential shared values of the profession from those which are mere conventions. I suggest that appropriate professional ethics instruction is moral education at its best - character development without indoctrination.


A thesis presented to the faculty of the Graduate School of Education of Harvard University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education.




Harvard University.

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