Distinguishing Features: Reconsidering the Link Between Journalism’s Professional Status and Ethics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This monograph begins a rethinking of the idea of professional journalism ethics and examines how ethics is being employed as a key differentiator between amateurs (audience members, citizen journalists, and the like) and professionals, while other once-distinguishing features of journalism have become more widely dispersed and available to the public. How do the ethics of nonprofessionals practicing journalism differ, if at all, from everyday morality? Is journalism ethics—should journalism ethics be—the exclusive domain of professionals? This monograph considers the role of ethics in defining what it means to be a professional journalist; challenges to professional journalism’s autonomy from “amateurs” and how ethics is used to maintain boundaries between them; and objectivity as a tenet of professional journalism ethics. An analysis of 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign coverage is used to explore how and why a professional journalism centered on an ethic of objectivity can fail to perform ethically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-301
Number of pages42
JournalJournalism and Communication Monographs
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • ethics
  • objectivity
  • professionalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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