Date of Award

Winter 12-16-2016

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Michael Socolow

Second Committee Member

Eric Peterson

Third Committee Member

Jennifer Moore

Additional Committee Members

Jordan LaBouff

Linda Silka

Abstract

Recent national survey data paint a bleak picture of economic struggles and declining audience for traditional journalistic media as more people use digital sources for news. This transition challenges traditional journalistic practices and some scholars argue digital news is ushering in an era of post objectivity characterized by engaged audiences and greater transparency of work. Yet, local television news is maintaining audience and remains sustainable as the number one source for news in the U.S. This suggests its approach to journalism merits investigation. This study examines how newsworkers view traditional standards in this context, in order to add depth to our understanding of the issues catalyzed by the transition news media is undergoing.

This dissertation employs a mixed-method approach to analyze the current transition between old and new forms of journalism, describing both the persistence and adaptability of journalists’ perceptions of professional ideology and standards in the face of uncertain prospects for the news business. This project uses both social psychological and mass communication frameworks of attitudinal and news production research. An exploration of individual attitudes about production practices through the use of quantitative and qualitative analyses of surveys, interviews, and participant observations helps to examine the persistence or evolution of traditional journalistic norms and standards.

The results suggest that journalists continue to support objectivity and other traditional news standards and journalistic norms. At the same time, more emphasis on community engagement is growing, facilitated by the employment of new technology. These two imperatives are seen as sometimes in tension.

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