The media ethics literature is filled both with calls to more clearly define the values that govern media practitioners and with claims about which values ought to drive good journalism. Yet virtually nowhere in the field has social psychology research into the nature of values been brought to bear on this discussion. Based on an analysis of a series of in-depth interviews with 15 newspaper journalists in California, New Jersey and North Carolina, this examination of how journalists perceive, articulate and seek to embody their personal values in their work suggests that, far from working in a moral vacuum, journalists bring to bear a number of morality-based and competency-based values on their everyday ethical decision-making. Drawing from the body of value-theory research in social psychology, the analysis suggests that 1) journalists may have an inadequate conceptualization of journalistic autonomy; 2) the field suffers from an excessively wide range in the degree to which journalists embrace the goal of transparent deliberation; and 3) the journalistic admonition to “minimize harm” requires clarification within the profession.
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