Trylon Communications  - February 2005

Journalists Measure Up

A new report, ďThe Moral Media: How Journalists Reason About Ethics,Ē says journalists rank right up there in the ethics category (see release) - fourth behind seminarians, physicians and medical students as one of the most morally developed professional groups.

Letís face it, the journalism profession has taken its shots lately. Whether itís a journalist making up stories for The New York Times or CBS getting shellacked for its coverage of the presidentís armed services career, bad journalism has seen its share of press.

Lee Wilkins, journalism professor in the Missouri School of Journalism, and Renita Coleman of Louisiana State University, administered the Defining Issues Test, which measures moral development, to 249 reporters from print and broadcast newsrooms nationwide. While this test has reportedly been given to more than 30,000 professionals over the past 30 years, this was the first time a group of journalists had taken it.

Journalism requires a moral compass. Most people get into the business because they want to serve the community. This appears to be substantiated by the high scores produced by the journalists who took the test. Journalists scored above dental students, nurses, graduate students, undergraduate college students, veterinary students and adults in general.

"Giving journalists the opportunity to work through more ethical dilemmas, whether they are real, occurring on the job, or hypothetical in seminars and workshops, bodes well for the profession," Wilkins said. "Thinking like a journalist involves moral reflection, done at a level that in most instances equals or exceeds members of other learned professions."

Interestingly, the couple also administered the test to 65 advertising executives. The results were quite different. The researchers found that advertising professionals do lack ethics, or at the very least choose not to exercise the ethical reasoning abilities they have.