Date of Award

1-1-2011

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Department

School of Journalism and Mass Communications

First Advisor

Keith Kenney

Abstract

The purpose of the news media is to cover the issues the public needs and wants to know. Journalists are tasked with informing the public, but they face competitive and organizational influences. Those influences can and do result in situations that journalists perceive as challenging because of factors such as competing loyalties and ethical ambiguities. For journalists who find themselves in such circumstances, responding to or resolving these situational problems in effective and professionally appropriate ways often requires processes of decision-making that differ from person to person. The ethical considerations journalists give to different avenues available for resolution of the situational challenge are a result of factors including training, news or work routines, and perceived influences from inside and outside the news organization. In addition to journalists perceiving influences in the decision-making process, journalists may also identify the intra- and extra-organizational influences as contributing to the initial situational problem itself.

This study examines television journalists' perceptions of situational challenges and the factors that influence their ethical decision-making processes. Specifically, qualitative, in-depth interviews, conducted with individual journalists at small market television stations, offered insight into the sources that influence the stories that the journalists decide to cover and the manner in which they cover them. This study examines the meaning and significance the journalists ascribe to challenging newsgathering experiences and their understanding of the entities that influence them the most in their decision-making processes. Findings suggest that journalists who are new to the business of television news enjoy a fair amount of autonomy in terms of what stories they cover and how. However, they report situational challenges resulting from influence from news managers, often on behalf of extra-organizational sources such as advertisers.

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