Table Of Contents
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- Foreword: The “American Journalist” Studies Since the 1970s by G. Cleveland Wilhoit
- The Foundational Study in 1971
- A New Study of the Profession in 1982 After Its Great Expansion
- The American Journalist Book of 1986 Gets a Revised, Second Edition in 1991
- Fieldwork for Another National Study in 1992
- A National Conference for Journalists to “Review” the New Book in 1996
- First National Study in the New Millennium, 2002
- The Digital Age as the Backdrop for the Latest Book
- Organization of the Book
- Tables and Figures
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Journalists and the 2016 Presidential Election Campaign
- Journalists and Journalism Matter—Still
- New Research Critically Reflects the Importance of Journalists
- Changing Technology and News in the Modern Setting
- Patterns of News Media Use in the Digital Age
- Journalistic Challenges in an Uncertain Digital Economy
- An In-Depth View of the Modern Journalist From the Perspective of a Half-Century
- 2. Basic Characteristics of U.S. Journalists
- Size of the Journalistic Workforce
- Geographic Distribution of Journalists
- Age and Gender
- Ethnic and Racial Origins
- Political Views
- Political Leanings
- Political Party Identification
- Media Use
- Newspaper Reading
- 3. Education and Training
- Past Developments in Journalism Education
- Recent Developments in Journalism Education
- Employment Patterns
- Educational Backgrounds of U.S. Journalists
- Years of Schooling
- Variation Among Media
- Regional Differences
- Fields of Study in College and Graduate School
- Are Journalism Majors Different?
- Continuing Education of Journalists
- 4. Journalists in the Workplace
- Profiles of News Workers
- Journalists Now Older and More Experienced
- Many of the “Best and Brightest” Did Not Leave
- Reporting Is Still the “Heart” of the Field
- Comparative Characteristics of Managers and Reporters
- Professional Autonomy and Newsroom Influence
- Diminishing Autonomy Continues
- Predictors of Job Autonomy
- Beyond Less Autonomy, What are Other Constraints?
- How Journalists Rate their Organizations: The Background
- Journalists Give their Newsrooms Slightly Lower “Marks”
- Income of Journalists in the 2013 Sample
- What Predicts Salary Levels?
- Job Satisfaction in the Profession
- Job Satisfaction Continues to Decline
- A Deeper Look at More of the Job Conditions Data Provides Context
- What affects Journalists’ Ideas about Job Satisfaction?
- The Relationship of Key Job Factors to Satisfaction Ratings
- Predictors of Job Satisfaction
- Trends on Leaving The Field for Other Careers
- Predictors of Leaving Profession
- Significance of the Findings on the “Leavers”
- 5. Professionalism: Roles, Values, and Ethics
- The Journalist’s Professional Community
- Professional Group Memberships
- Readership of Professional Publications
- Online Sources of Professional News and Criticism Used by Journalists
- Newspapers Read by Journalists in 2013
- Journalistic Role Conceptions
- Specific Journalistic Roles in the Second Decade of the New Century
- Always the “Watchdog”
- Analyzing Complex Problems has Risen in Importance
- Being Adversarial is Less Important than Being the “Watchdog”/Analyst
- Setting the Political “Agenda” Goes Too Far for Most
- Moderation on Other Activist Roles
- Reaching Wide Audiences Now Considered Even Less a Goal
- A Decline in Importance of Speed and More Leniency Toward Unverified Stories
- Entertainment is Now Even More of an “Outlier” Role
- Overall, What Do the Findings on Roles and Values Mean?
- Broad Journalistic Orientations in the Modern Setting
- The Interpretive-watchdog Orientation
- The Populist-Mobilizer Orientation
- The Adversarial Orientation
- The Disseminator Orientation
- Are There Clusters of Journalists Who Tend to Identify With Certain Roles?
- Functional “Leanings” Among Journalists
- Conclusions About Journalistic Orientations
- Do Professional Role Orientations Matter?
- Ethics in Journalism and Perceptions of Reporting Practices
- Attitudes Toward Important Reporting Practices
- Paying for Information More Unpopular Than Ever
- Undercover Reporting and Deception Also Out of Favor, Except for Hidden Cameras
- Use of Unauthorized Documents Again Splits the Profession
- Use of Personal Documents Without Permission Is Less Tolerated
- Badgering Sources Now Less Acceptable
- Re-creating News Is Now Largely Rejected
- Widespread Objection Now to Disclosing Names of Rape Victims
- Journalists Agree, Once Sources Are Granted Anonymity, the Promise Must Be Kept
- On Using Unverified Content, Another View—Now Negative
- The Predictors of Journalists’ Overall Attitude About Aggressive Reporting Tactics
- Significance of Changes in Attitudes on Reporting Tactics
- 6. Women Journalists
- Race and Ethnicity
- Family Life
- Work Experience
- News Medium
- Managerial Influence
- Editorial Influence
- Job Dimensions
- Job Satisfaction
- Professional Values
- Role Perceptions
- Ethical Standards
- Social Media
- Occupational Experience
- Professional Roles and Ethics
- Social Media
- 7. Minority Journalists
- Continuing Education
- Family Life
- Work Experience
- Managerial Influence
- Editorial Influence
- Job Dimensions
- Job Satisfaction
- Commitment to Journalism
- Rating of Organization
- Organizational Memberships
- Professional Values
- Role Perceptions
- Ethical Standards
- 8. Social Media and U.S. Journalism
- Journalists’ Use of Social Media
- Overall Use and Perceived Importance
- Time Spent With Social Media by Media Type
- Types of Social Media Used by Media Type
- Purpose of Social Media Used by Media Type
- Predictors of Social Media Use
- Attitudes Toward Social Media
- Open-Ended Responses
- Knowledge of Social Media
- Predictors of Attitudes Toward Social Media
- Perceived Influence of Social Media on Professional Values
- Perceived Influence of Social Media and Views of Social Media in Journalism
- Social Media Policies and Training
- Use of Social Media in Journalism
- Attitudes Toward Social Media
- Social Media Enthusiasts and Skeptics
- Journalistic Roles and Social Media
- 9. Conclusions
- Politics and Religion
- Media Use
- Professional Roles
- Ethics and Reporting Practices
- Checkbook Journalism
- Deceptive Undercover Techniques
- Unauthorized Documents Use
- Personal Documents Use Without Permission
- Badgering Sources
- Recreating News
- Disclosing Names of Rape Victims
- Identifying Confidential Sources
- Implications of the Findings on Controversial Reporting Practices
- Social Media Use
- Journalism Integrity in a Time of Hostility
- Appendix I: Methodology
- Appendix II: Questionnaire
- Name Index
- Subject Index
- About the Authors
- Series index
Few studies of an occupation as important as journalism can claim a half-century perspective on the personalities, work, professional attitudes, and ethics from large samples of the people in it. This one can.
This book is the fourth in the American Journalist series begun in the early 1980s, which built on the foundational work in 1971 of University of Illinois at Chicago scholars John W. C. Johnstone, Edward J. Slawski, and William W. Bowman. Their benchmark research enabled us to adapt our study to each decade’s changes and also to sustain a core of inquiry for a wide-angle, longitudinal lens through which to view an occupation that remains vital to American democracy.
The Foundational Study in 1971
The professional challenges to journalism during the Nixon era of animosity and suspicion toward The News People, the title of the Illinois research team’s 1976 book, are the foundation for the half-century of work covered in our new book. Conducted in the fall of 1971, just after the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the interviews with a national sample of 1,313 journalists from mainline media were done at the height of the struggle between the press ← ix | x → and the Nixon administration. And, it is easy to forget that there were tensions even within the press itself, in part because of the emergence during the Vietnam War of an underground, alternative press that challenged traditional news values.1 Johnstone and his colleagues described the tension as between the idea of “participant-whole truth” reporting and “neutral, nothing-but-the-truth” journalism.
Not surprisingly, it was younger journalists who tended to be most strongly “participant” in orientation. Overall, though, the 1971 study found that most journalists identified with elements of both orientations, and that large majorities were enthusiastic about being a “watchdog” over government and analyzing and interpreting complex problems.2 Although ebbing and flowing somewhat, if one had to pick a theme to typify the almost half-century of the values of U.S. journalists reflected in this book, this would be it.
A New Study of the Profession in 1982 After Its Great Expansion
By the time of our 1982 research for the first volume of The American Journalist (1986),3 the field was still basking in arguably U.S. journalism’s historic high moment, told grippingly in the classic 1976 film, All the President’s Men. The dramatic tale of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting that led to the Watergate scandal and the resignation of a president would help to inspire a generation of young journalists to enter a field that—before the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate break-in—had been jeered with spiteful taunts as “nattering nabobs of negativism” from the Nixon administration.4
Our research—supported by a generous grant from the Gannett Foundation—documented the beginning of a dramatic expansion of U.S. journalism with the entry of thousands of Baby Boomers. Amidst the expansion, however, there was a slight decline in journalists’ job satisfaction and in one of its key elements, perceived autonomy or discretion over work. Still, only one in ten journalists had plans to leave the field, just slightly more that a decade earlier. The attributes of the “leavers,” though, were a surprise in that they now included more of the older, highly experienced and educated personnel—whom we called “the best and brightest.” And critics already were claiming that the field had become too cocky and adversarial, particularly toward public officials. As result, our research probed for an adversarial mindset among journalists. We found it, but the analysis showed the adversarial ← x | xi → stance was far less prevalent than most observers claimed. And, our research suggested that what the Johnstone research team had labeled a decade earlier as “participant” and “neutral” journalistic orientations were now more aptly described by three categories that we named as interpretive/investigative (which was dominant), information disseminator, and the newly emerged (but distinctly minority) adversarial role.
The American Journalist Book of 1986 Gets a Revised, Second Edition in 1991
By the late 1980s, the political role of journalism was so widely recognized—and debated—that John Gallman, director of the Indiana University Press, urged us to do a second edition of the 1986 book. The new edition in 1991 looked more closely at what our 1982 data showed about the growing role of broadcast news, the impact of women in the profession, and the news values reflected in the examples of “best work” sent to us by journalists in our sample. Our faculty colleague Dan G. Drew and doctoral students Lori Bergen and Sue Lafky collaborated on the new edition, which showed that women had made significant progress and were having considerable impact as journalism expanded dramatically into a young person’s field. Partly as result of new federal equal-opportunity rules and also courageous pushing by activists, female journalists now comprised one-third of the workforce compared to one-fifth a decade earlier. The analysis of actual news stories written by many of those in our 1982 sample confirmed that what they considered their “best” work largely was not adversarial in tone, but tended to reflect the extent of their enthusiasm for the interpretive, disseminator, and adversarial roles. And the characteristics and values of the broadcast journalists in our sample were roughly similar to their print colleagues.5
Fieldwork for Another National Study in 1992
As we began fieldwork in June 1992 for The American Journalist in the 1990s, the term “surfing the internet” had become popular, but it was not the looming World Wide Web that would be the backdrop for the new research. Instead it was a mild economic recession that had hit the media industry particularly hard, greatly slowing the growth of journalism that had been ← xi | xii → evident a decade earlier. Job satisfaction and perceived autonomy had declined again, and the number of journalists planning to leave the field had doubled to about 20%.
Everette Dennis, then director of the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University in New York, noted in the “Foreword” to the 1996 book that one of the silver linings in the slowing employment numbers was that “media executives had made good on their promise to hire and promote more minorities.”6 Since the study a decade earlier, minority representation had gone from about 4% to 8% in the 1992 data. Dennis added that the “precepts of professionalism” that emerged from the book” suggested that “when basic news decisions are made, professionalism and not personal bias, prevails.”7
A National Conference for Journalists to “Review” the New Book in 1996
At a conference just after the publication of The American Journalist in the 1990s—in 1996 at the Freedom Forum Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, whose grant supported the research—James Fallows, then Washington editor of The Atlantic, noted the findings about the idealism journalists expressed in being drawn to what they saw as a “noble” profession. That would ring true for many, he said, although the altruistic image of their work appeared to be in stark contrast to a growing negative, distrustful view of them among the public-at-large. Fallows had put his finger on another perennial theme in the studies—a keen sense of altruism, helping people, which persists even in the midst of ever-deepening public disdain. A concern for Fallows, though, was the finding of a significant, though slight, decline in journalists’ enthusiasm for the interpretive-investigative value and a resurgence of the disseminator role.8 Possibly reflecting that, an analysis in the book of the “best work” submitted by many of the journalists—done by doctoral student Divya C. McMillan—found that the disseminator role dominated a majority of it, unlike our findings a decade earlier.9 Despite all that, in the minds of the journalists we studied in the early 1990s, a new role was forming among a small minority. We called it the populist-mobilizer orientation—the goal of encouraging audience involvement in community problem solving, largely inspired by the “civic/public journalism” movement that had gained importance early in the decade. ← xii | xiii →
First National Study in the New Millennium, 2002
The “dawn of the new millennium”—the phrase used in the subtitle of the new book, The American Journalist in the 21st Century—saw retrenchment in the field, with the words “downsizing” and “layoff” becoming more common. Our estimate was that the fulltime professional workforce had declined about 5% over the decade. The Internet was now commonplace, with the Pew Research Center estimating that about 55 million people in the United States used it at work. A few early social media sites had launched, but it would be a year before Mark Zuckerberg originated Facebook.10 And, although online journalism was still in relative infancy, a growing number of media, particularly newspapers, had websites. As result, the “new millennium” data included for the first time a separate sample of 100 online journalists for a chapter, all their own, in the new book, published in 2007. And, for the new research, Randal A. Beam, Bonnie J. Brownlee, and Paul S. Voakes—all Indiana University colleagues then—joined us in the project, this time made possible by a major grant from the Knight Foundation.
In the 2002 data—as news media struggled to maintain longstanding profit margins amidst audience changes that loomed and consolidation of ownership that continued—there were some surprises. Job satisfaction showed a slight uptick, and journalists rated the quality of their organizations’ performance somewhat higher than a decade earlier. And, for a change, salaries slightly outpaced inflation. Still, as “convergence” became a watchword, journalists were facing the emergence of “multiplatform” demands to be skilled in a variety of media forms. In the midst of all that, perceived autonomy continued its slight, but steady, decline. Even so, the number of journalists planning to leave the field also declined slightly, reversing the historic rise to more than a fifth planning to “defect” a decade earlier.
Perhaps the biggest change, though, was the diminished salience of the disseminator role, with significant declines in the perceived importance of speed in getting out information and reaching the widest possible audience. Along with that change, the new populist mobilizer role had risen, although still strongly endorsed by only about one-tenth of the journalists in our study. The interpretive-investigative role was still dominant, although slightly less strong than in the 1970s.
A stronger focus in the “New Millennium” book was placed on the ethics of controversial news practices, which we had studied since the early1980s. We found that the tolerance for some deceptive reporting practices had ← xiii | xiv → declined, especially claiming to be somebody else and going undercover. Disclosing the names of sexual violence victims was now justified by a smaller minority of journalists, as was use of personal documents without consent. On the other hand, the disclosure of unauthorized official and business document was deemed sometimes acceptable by a majority, having spiked again after a surprising ambivalence about this practice in the early 1980s.
The Digital Age as the Backdrop for the Latest Book
All of this has set the stage for this latest book. The realization of the digital age dominated the background of our fieldwork done in the latter months of 2013. As some experts proclaimed that the change wrought by the emerging “smart phone” era was the greatest shift in the history of U.S. journalism, the questions we had looked at for decades now assumed even greater importance. The creativity afforded journalists by the new multiplatform storytelling was happening at the same time that social media, dominated by Facebook, were gobbling up advertising dollars at an alarming rate. “Downsizing,” “layoffs” and “social media” were almost a mantra of the new landscape, along with a new political hostility that challenged the integrity of the field. The nascent changes appeared to be leading to a brutal competition for audiences that threatened to rekindle an old spirit among journalists, one that the newspaper columnist Russell Baker a quarter-century ago called “a zealot’s belief in the importance of the present moment.”11
Hence, this new book attempts to give a half-century perspective on the vital questions and characteristics that make up a profession that has always been small compared to the larger industry in which it is, or should be, the most powerful voice. It’s even smaller now, and the power of its voice has never been more in question—or important.
1. John W. C. Johnstone, Edward J. Slawski, and William W. Bowman, The News People: A Sociological Portrait of American Journalists and Their Work. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1976, pp. vii, 131.
2. Johnstone, The News People, pp. 117 and 131.
3. Richard G. Gray, who was dean of the Indiana University School of Journalism, was greatly supportive of our work and instrumental in obtaining the major grant support from the Gannett Foundation. Before his tragic death, he was planning work on a chapter for ← xiv | xv → the book on the early history of the people in American journalism. His research assistant, Robert Baker, continued the library research after Dean Gray’s death and wrote a first draft of chapter one in the book, “A Historical View of the Journalist.”
4. The taunt was spoken by Vice-president Spiro Agnew, although apparently it was Nixon speech writer William Safire (later an influential columnist for The New York Times) who actually penned the words. See David Remnick, “Nattering Nabobs,” The New Yorker, newyorker.com, July 10, 2006. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/07/10/nattering-nabobs
5. David H. Weaver and G. Cleveland Wilhoit (with contributions by Lori A. Bergen, Dan G. Drew, and Sue A. Lafky), The American Journalist: A Portrait of U.S. News People and Their Work, Second Edition, Bloomington/Indianapolis, The Indiana University Press, 1991, p. 276.
6. Everette E. Dennis, “Foreword,” in The American Journalist in the 1990s, p. xii.
7. Dennis, “Foreword,” in The American Journalist in the 1990s, p. xv.
8. James Fallows, National Conference on The American Journalist in the 1990s, Freedom Forum Headquarters, Arlington, VA, July 9, 1996. Retrieved from https://www.c-span.org/video/?73448-1/american-journalist-1990s
9. Divya C. McMillan and David Weaver, “Journalists’ Best Work,” in The American Journalist in the 1990s, pp. 217–230.
10. Pew Research Center, “World Wide Web Timeline, pew.org,” March 11, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/03/11/world-wide-web-timeline/
11. Russell Baker, “Observer: The Recovery Room,” The New York Times.nytimes.com. March 1, 1994.
As was true of our earlier American Journalist books, this one builds on the work of many other scholars, particularly John Johnstone and his colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who did the first major national survey of U.S. journalists in 1971, reported in their book, The News People: A Sociological Portrait of American Journalists and Their Work. That study produced baseline information about U.S. journalists’ backgrounds, education and training, careers, working patterns, and attitudes about their jobs, their roles, their ethics, and their responsibilities. It included journalists working for a wide variety of printed and broadcast news media, including newspapers, news magazines, wire services, television and radio.
Since then, we have carried out four additional national surveys, in 1982, 1992, 2002, and 2013, reported in The American Journalist, The American Journalist in the 1990s, The American Journalist in the 21st Century, and now The American Journalist in the Digital Age. These surveys included many of the same questions asked by the Johnstone team more than 40 years ago, but also a number of new ones concerning the impact and use of new technologies, especially those based on the Internet, and the changes in the working environments of journalists throughout the United States. ← xvii | xviii →
As in the earlier books, our chief concerns in this book are with changes in the backgrounds and education of those working in U.S. news media; their working conditions and jobs, including the use and impact of new technologies; and their views concerning their roles and ethical values. A new concern in this book is with the attacks on journalism by current President Donald Trump and his administration, and how journalists’ beliefs and attitudes are related to such attacks.
A study of this magnitude requires support from many people. Most important was the financial support provided by the former Dean of the School of Journalism at Indiana University, Bradley Hamm. Without his support, there would have been no 2013 survey. We deeply appreciate this support to keep this series of studies of U.S. journalists going.
Special thanks to our two Ph.D. students, Jihyang Choi and Shuo Tang, for their wonderful help with the sampling procedure and the preliminary data analysis. We also would like to thank the following students at Indiana University for contacting hundreds of journalists by phone to cajole them into participating in our survey: Noelle Bockhorst, Justine Cole, Sudeshna Chowdhury, Tyler Cotman, Xuyang Fan, John Ford, Samantha Felix, Cheonsoo Kim, Joan Ong, Lauryn Quick, Rachel Rapp, Elsa Remak, Elizabeth Schaefer, Christine Spasoff, Josephine Tanner, Zach Vaughn, Roshni Verghese, and Kate Wickwire. Thanks also to John Kennedy, Ashley Bowers, Alycia Cameron, and Heather Marti at the Indiana University Center for Survey Research and Brett Hurst at Qualtrics for their valuable help with designing and running the online survey. Many thanks also to Barrett Pope from the University of Kentucky for creating the subject index. We also are very thankful to graphic designer par ← xix | xx → excellence, Kurtis Beavers, for his creative cover design that so cleverly depicts the digital age of U.S. journalism.
Others who have helped us greatly with previous studies include Gerald M. Sass, then vice president/education and Eugene Dorsey, president, of The Gannett Foundation, which supported the first study in 1982; Charles Overby, president, Felix Gutierrez, vice president, and Everette Dennis, senior vice president, of The Freedom Forum, which supported the second study in 1992; John Bare, director of program development and evaluation, Larry Meyer, vice president of communications, and Eric Newton, director of journalism initiatives, of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which supported the third study in 2002.
We owe a special thanks to Professor Lee Becker of the University of Georgia, who helped to get the Knight Foundation interested in supporting us for the 2002 study and who served as editor of the Peter Lang series on journalism and mass communication for this present 2013 study. We also thank Linda Bathgate, then Senior Editor-Communications at Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, for her dedication and help in publishing The American Journalist in the 1990s and The American Journalist in the 21st Century books.
At Indiana University, we were supported and assisted in previous studies by Richard Gray, dean of the School of Journalism at Indiana University; Trevor Brown, dean of the School of Journalism at Indiana University after Richard Gray; journalism faculty members Dan Drew, Randal Beam, Bonnie Brownlee, David Paul Nord, and Paul Voakes; journalism librarian Frances Goins Wilhoit and Indiana University librarians Joanne Bailey, Keith Buckley, Michael Parrish, Douglas Freeman, and Ralph Gaebler; graduate students Robert Baker, Lori Bergen, Sue Lafky, Jo Ellen Fair, Hemant Shah, Mary Alice Sentman, Michael McClellan, Timothy Gallimore, Leigh Moscowitz, Peter Mwesige, Divya McMillen, Douglas Walker, and Eunseong Kim; journalism staff members Cathi Norton and Kathleen Ristow-Harriman; director of the Indiana University Press John Gallman; director of Indiana University’s Center for Survey Research John Kennedy, and Kathy Matthews, project manager of the Center, as well as Nancy Bannister, associate director of the Center, and Katy Adams, field director of the Center.
David Weaver benefitted from significant support for research assistance in the preparation of the 1996 and 2007 books provided by the Roy W. Howard Research Professorship he held from 1988 to 2011, which was established by Jack Howard, Jane Howard Perkins and the Scripps Howard Foundation with generous gifts to the Indiana University School of Journalism.
We divided the primary responsibility for the chapters in this book as follows: David Weaver was first author of Chapters 2, “Basic Characteristics,” 3, “Education and Training,” 6, “Women Journalists,” and 7, “Minority Journalists.” Cleve Wilhoit was first author of Chapters 1, “Introduction,” 4, “Journalists in the Workplace,” and 5, “Professionalism.” Lars Willnat led the data collection and analysis and was first author of Chapter 8, “Social Media” and Appendix 1, “Methodology.” We all contributed to Chapter 9, “Conclusions,” and also to each other’s chapters and Appendix 2, “Questionnaire.”
Table 2.1: Estimated Full-Time Editorial Workforce in U.S. News Media
- XXVIII, 444
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- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XXVIII, 444 pp., 117 b/w ill.