Desperation vs. Innovation

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Presentation for AEJMC 2010 Southeast Colloquium by Jennifer Brannock Cox.

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  • All sources and organizations anonymous.“large” = 200,000+ circulation“online only” includes one traditional-turned-online and one online start-up.Victor & Cullen categories were used to guide the interview through the major ethical climate elements.
  • Reporters commented that the standards for “what news is” have changed to drive up Web hits.
  • Many reporters complained of situations where a co-worker was fired under circumstances that they found to be confusing because the ethical codes were unclear.
  • Although they adhere to many of the same ethical policies, reporters and editors in traditional and online newsrooms imagine that their counterparts are acting differently. Online reporters view traditional reporters’ ethical practices as being outdated and archaic. Traditional reporters view online reporters as being unethical and less committed to rules and accuracy.
  • Traditional reporters don’t like the breaking down of the metaphorical brick wall, but they are so concerned with keeping their jobs that they keep quiet about their anxiety. Online reporters are more excited about being involved in the business process of newspapers. They like having a stake in the business, whereas traditional reporters want to focus solely on the product.
  • Traditional reporters are concerned about the speed of online and the limited editing prior to publication.Online staffers feel that small mistakes are easily corrected online. They also feel that they have more responsibility for the accuracy of their work because there is less editing. They argue that burden of responsibility makes them more careful with their content.
  • Traditional reporters are still concerned primarily with filling the page every day whereas online producers feel like their work will be part of an archived legacy that is accessible forever. Some online-only reporters get paid a commission when people view their stories because their content drives up advertising page views.
  • The bottom line is that traditional reporters view their reactions to the changes in ethical climate situations as acts of desperation, whereas online staffers believe they are part of a new wave of journalism innovation.Traditional reporters view their adherence to ethics changes as sacrifices. Online staffers view the changes as mere modifications to traditional ethical practices.One common theme appeared to be that ethical policies are rarely communicated clearly in both types of organizations. This lack of clarity could lead to trouble, especially at online organizations that don’t have a written policy. The study is limited in that it is exploratory. A small sample was used, and further quantifiable work is needed to detect organizational trends and differences. The researcher is working to better define the organizational categories in order to properly examine the differences between the newsroom types.
  • Desperation vs. Innovation

    1. 1. Desperation Versus Innovation: Measuring Ethical Climate in Evolving Newsrooms<br />By Jennifer Brannock Cox<br />University of Florida<br />
    2. 2. Introduction<br />Traditional newspapers are changing<br />11 newspapers closed in 2009<br />8 newspapers adopted online-only format<br />Almost 15,000 newspaper jobs lost<br />Journalists regard ethics as being fundamental<br />Are changes affecting perspectives on ethics (ethical climates)?<br />Source: www.delawareonline.com<br />
    3. 3. Study Variables – Types of News Organization<br />“Traditional Newspapers” <br />Those with a print & online product<br />Traditional reporters are stressed, over-worked<br />“Online-Only Newspapers”<br />Both start-ups & print-to-online transitions<br />Same folks; different training<br />New sense of optimism<br />Source: http://blog.searchenginewatch.com<br />
    4. 4. Study Variables –Ethical Climate<br />Born out of “organizational climate” and “business ethics” studies<br />Primarily used to characterize employees’ views of ethical practices in their organization<br />Ethical climate highly linked to job satisfaction (Elçi & Alpkan, 2008)<br />Ethical climate best affected when journalists are involved in writing of ethical codes (Battistoli, 2008) <br />
    5. 5. Research Questions<br />RQ1: Have traditional print journalists and editors noticed changes in ethical climate since the adoption of an online product? If so, what are they?<br />RQ2: How are the ethical practices of those in the newsroom viewed by traditional and online-only journalists and editors?<br />RQ3: Does the conveyance of ethical policies affect ethical climate in traditional and online-only newsrooms?<br />RQ4: Does ethical climate differ in traditional newsrooms versus online-only newsrooms? <br />
    6. 6. Method<br />10 reporters & editors<br />2 “large” traditional organizations; 2 online-only organizations<br />In-depth interviews loosely based on Victor and Cullen’s (1988) ethical climate categories<br />Caring, law and code, communication, conflicts of interest and online practices <br />
    7. 7. Findings – Emerging Themes<br />RQ1: Have traditional print journalists and editors noticed changes in ethical climate since the adoption of an online product? If so, what are they?<br />Advertising conflicts of interest<br />Brick wall is weakening in both<br />Some advertising content creeping into product<br />More advertising involvement in editorial process<br />
    8. 8. Findings – Emerging Themes<br />RQ1: Have traditional print journalists and editors noticed changes in ethical climate since the adoption of an online product? If so, what are they?<br />Accuracy<br />Both agree accuracy sometimes sacrificed for speed<br />Fewer editors overseeing copy<br />
    9. 9. Findings – Emerging Themes<br />RQ1: Have traditional print journalists and editors noticed changes in ethical climate since the adoption of an online product? If so, what are they?<br />Content<br />More salacious material given higher prominence<br />“The standards are different.” <br />
    10. 10. Findings – Emerging Themes<br />RQ2: How are the ethical practices of those in the newsroom viewed by traditional and online-only journalists and editors?<br />RQ3: Does the conveyance of ethical policies affect ethical climate in traditional and online-only newsrooms?<br />Communication and ethics<br />Both – adhere to “traditional newspaper ethics”<br />Online – no written policies; Traditional – more defined<br />Online – understood & reactionary; Traditional – e-mail, contracts<br />
    11. 11. Findings – Emerging Themes<br />RQ2: How are the ethical practices of those in the newsroom viewed by traditional and online-only journalists and editors?<br />RQ3: Does the conveyance of ethical policies affect ethical climate in traditional and online-only newsrooms?<br />Online vs. traditional attitudes <br />Traditional – unmoving; rules are rules<br />Online – excited about developing “as we go”<br />Confusion at times over violation penalties<br />
    12. 12. Findings – Emerging Themes<br />RQ4: Does ethical climate differ in traditional newsrooms versus online-only newsrooms? <br />Caring & Law and Code<br />Traditional vs. online: many imagined differences<br />Traditional: outdated<br />Online: unethical and less committed to accuracy<br />
    13. 13. Findings – Emerging Themes<br />RQ4: Does ethical climate differ in traditional newsrooms versus online-only newsrooms? <br />Conflicts of interest – advertising<br />Traditional – upset but quiet<br />Online – optimistic about involving process<br />
    14. 14. Findings – Emerging Themes<br />RQ4: Does ethical climate differ in traditional newsrooms versus online-only newsrooms? <br />Online practices – Accuracy <br />Traditional – less editing, troubling<br />Online – mistakes are easily corrected<br />Online – feel more of a burden for accuracy due to lack of oversight<br />
    15. 15. Findings – Emerging Themes<br />RQ4: Does ethical climate differ in traditional newsrooms versus online-only newsrooms? <br />Online practices – Content<br />Traditional – filling the page<br />Online – contributing to archived legacy<br />
    16. 16. Discussion<br />Desperation vs. Innovation<br />Sacrifices vs. Modifications<br />Lack of communication regarding policies – could lead to trouble<br />Limitations:<br />Small sample<br />Further quantifiable work needed<br />Working to better define <br />organizational categories<br />
    17. 17. Questions?<br />

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