FLASH: Journalists Have Heart

Just in time for Valentine’s Day later this month, there’s word today that journalists actually care. Editor and Publisher pointed us today to a Missouri study that–in news that’s sure to shock most reporters in Washington–shows journalism is, in fact, rather ethical.

Using a pool of 249 “working” journalists (whatever that means), the researchers administered the Defining Issues Test, an assessment based upon Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, to 249 working journalists in newsrooms across the country. We don’t really know what that means since we skipped the day in Psych 10 when Kohlberg was covered, but it sounds pretty impressive.

They found that journalists who took an ethical test scored the fourth highest among all professionals tested–above “dental students, nurses, graduate students, undergraduate college students, veterinary students, and adults in general.” The three groups more ethical than journalists, FYI, are doctors, seminarians, and medical students.


The study’s authors found no significant differences between various groups of journalists by gender or broadcast vs. print reporting. While they did find that journalists who covered civic journalism or investigative reporting scored significantly higher those who did not, they did not break out the results by news agency. Fishbowl guesses there would be quite a spread between the cable networks, although most bookers would probably score down near the advertisers.

According to the press release, the Defining Issues Test is one of the most respected moral and ethics test out there, and tests responses to six ethical dilemmas–requiring participants to select a course of action and rank how important actions are in making their choices. Fishbowl seems to remember doing something to this when we visited the Newseum four or five years ago. In the 30 years since the test was invented, more than 30,000 professionals have been tested.