Building Ethical Narratives: The Audiences for AICPA Editorials

Abstract

This study examines how the American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants uses character and concept words to communicate normative narratives to different internal audiences. Our analysis of 552 editorials published in the AICPA’s Journal of Accountancy during the 1916–1973 period illustrates how the AICPA communicated similar yet different normative narratives to firm partners and students. During this time period, the centrality of ethically infused words such as ethics, conduct, and independence not only varied across different time periods but also across different target audiences. The findings draw attention to the importance of considering the audiences for ethical narratives as well as the ways that the intra-textual positioning of concepts and characters allow organizations to speak to slightly different audiences within the same communication medium.

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