Usa today, its imitators, and its critics: Do newsroom staffs face an ethical dilemma?

Journal of Mass Media Ethics 8 (1):17 – 36 (1993)
Many newspapers have emulated innovative news form and content associated with USA Today. At the same time, critics tutored in social responsibility theory have raised serious ethical concerns about this innovation. The situation would seem to pose an ethical dilemma for rank-and-file newsroom professionals. To illuminate the nature and extent of that dilemma, this study employed a two-step methodology: (a) a content analysis of the 230 largest U.S. dailies to identify two clusters of newspapers - adopters and nonadopters of the innovation, and (b) a mail survey of 200 staff-level newsroom reporters and editors in each cluster. Results indicate that journalists generally have less concern than the critics about USA Today-style innovation. However, adoption of innovation has produced some ethical unease, which is roughly patterned by news work type (hard vs. soft news) and news work function (writer vs. editor).
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