typical values of U.S. journalists

Huntley’s conclusion underscores the high degree of autonomy that individual

journalists have in shaping what is reported. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees a free press, which prohibits government regulation. Constitutionally, journalists cannot be licensed. The news practices embodied in the Bennett Model, including a commitment to accuracy, served informally as a check against abuses. Those checks, however, are less effective with the opening of an impossible-to-track number of sources of information in our age of 24-hour cable and Internet news.

6.4.2 Personal Values 1. Objective: Outline typical values of U.S. journalists

The traditional journalistic ideal—an unbiased seeking of truth and an unvarnished telling of it—remains a core value of mainstream media. Yet as human beings, journalists have values that influence all that they do, including their work. What do we know about these values among mainstream journalists?

As a sociologist who studied stories in the American news media for 20 years, Herbert Gans concluded that journalists have a typical American values system. Gans identified primary values, all in the American mainstream, that journalists use in making their news judgments:

Ethnocentrism American journalists see things through American eyes, which colors news coverage. In the 1960s and 1970s, Gans noted, North Vietnam was consistently characterized as “the enemy.” U.S. reporters took the view of the U.S. government and military, which was hardly detached or neutral. This ethnocentrism was clear at the end of the war, which U.S. media headlined as “the fall of South Vietnam.” By other values, Gans said, the communist takeover of Saigon could be considered a liberation. In neutral terms, it was a change in government.

This ethnocentrism has created problems as news media have become more global. Is it not ethnocentric and less than neutral for a reporter embedded with a U.S. infantry unit to use the term “enemy?” Imagine the challenge for a diplomatic reporter for a global news agency in Tehran or in Washington. In reports on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, this has been an issue for Atlanta-based CNN and Doha-based Al- Jazeera.

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