Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Inoculation Theory: A Theoretical and Practical Framework for Conferring Resistance to Pack Journalism Tendencies

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Inoculation Theory: A Theoretical and Practical Framework for Conferring Resistance to Pack Journalism Tendencies

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study examines the nature of inoculation theory, a process through which attitude change can be resisted in the face of counter-attitudinal communication intended to convert or shift existing attitudes, and how it applies to pack journalism, an unethical media practice where herds of journalists repeatedly and widely cover one particular story and storm the targets (i.e., people, buildings, etc.) with their overwhelming presence. Based on inoculation theory's theoretical assumptions, and by deriving concepts and designs from previous inoculation studies, the authors urge scholars to implement a viable theoretical and practical platform by which inoculation treatments can be executed on journalists to render maximum attitudinal resistance toward the copycat (and unethical) element of pack journalism coverage.

Key words: ethics, inoculation, journalism, media, news, pack journalism, reporters

Introduction

Pack journalism is an unethical media practice where herds of journalists repeatedly and widely cover one particular story and storm the targets (i.e., people, buildings, etc.) with their overwhelming presence (Frank, 2003). One usual element of this pack journalism coverage is the sharing and copying of others' news sources (that is, words, titles, and content) and the eventual reporting of that news in a similar if not identical fashion as the others' reports (Kann, 1994). This tends to lead to an elimination of independent reporting (Mundy, 1995). Journalists' attitudes can be made to resist the influence of such lazy and convenient reporting through a well-established, communication process of systematic resistance: inoculation (McGuire, 1961; Pfau, 1995). Although a great deal of literature emphasizes the unethical nature of pack journalism coverage (Berkowitz, 1997; Brock, 1993; Crouse, 1973; Frank, 2003; Gordon et al., 1999; Kann, 1994; Matusitz & Breen, 2005; Mundy, 1995), as well as the need for more independent reporting (Crouse, 1973; Lule, 1992; Stone, 1967), journalism scholars demand that more research be done on pack journalism to better identify its implications and intricacies (Frank, 2003). In addition, since Eagly and Chaiken (1993) argue that more exploration on inoculation is required for further understanding of this theory in practice, this study breaks new ground by attempting to evaluate the relative merits of inoculation in conferring resistance to pack journalist practices.

In view of the fact that a certain number of journalists recognize the wrongfulness of copying others' sources (i.e., plagiarism) and have attitudes against blatant acts of pack journalism, these journalists are ripe for undergoing inoculation treatments. The results of these treatments should include immunity/resistance to pressures to copy others' reports. This ultimately facilitates independent reporting and minimizes the tendency or desire to resort to copycat pack journalism coverage. As such, this study first examines the nature of inoculation theory, that is, its main elements (threat and refutational preemption) and its three stages (warning, weak attack, and active defending). Second, this study provides a detailed description of pack journalism and relevant cases that illustrate its copycat and unethical nature. Based on inoculation theory's theoretical assumptions (Compton & Pfau, 2004; McGuire, 1964), and by deriving concepts and designs from previous inoculation studies, such as studies on smoking prevention (Pfau, 1995; Pfau & Van Bockern, 1994), the authors urge scholars to implement a viable theoretical and practical platform by which inoculation treatments can be executed on journalists to render maximum attitudinal resistance toward the copycat (and unethical) element of pack journalism coverage.

The Nature of Inoculation Theory: Description and Previous Studies

By focusing on journalists who are regularly exposed to news assignments that compromise their abilities to independently report news - i. …

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