chapter  1
How Journalists Talk About Ethics
ByJeremy Iggers
Pages 23

This chapter explores both the history of American journalism and the way that journalism's internal conversation about ethics is conducted. Janet Cooke's status embodies a judgment by American journalism, as an institution, about what is ethically important. The chapter examines her case by exploring how journalism reaches ethical judgments, but it may also offer insight into the factors that shape news judgment generally. The kind of ethical discourse or conversation that takes place on a daily basis among working journalists is different from the more abstract and theoretical discourse that can be found in codes of ethics, in papers given at professional conferences, and in other official venues. There are a number of theories, all worthy of consideration, about why journalists have so much difficulty articulating coherent visions of their social responsibilities. There may also be specific institutional factors that explain the silences and incoherencies in journalism's ethical discourse.