The Moral Media: How Journalists Reason about Ethics

By Lee Wilkins; Renita Coleman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Methods: Multiple Approaches
to Asking Questions

This book was based on several studies of journalists' ethical reasoning using two main types of research—two large-scale surveys and several, smaller experiments. The foundation of this research was a survey of 249 professional journalists who completed the Defining Issues Test (DIT) plus an accompanying questionnaire. A second DIT survey focused on advertising practitioners. A third survey, examining the particular ethical issue of deception, was administered to members of the professional organization Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). Although all surveys were designed to generate quantitative data, each also included a segment of what scholars refer to as qualitative data—journalists were allowed to explain their thinking using their own words and concepts. Based on the survey results, experiments were then devised to examine in a more controlled way whether visual images would influence ethical reasoning. It is important to note at the outset that although the general subject matter—ethical reasoning—was the center of the research, the multiple methods employed focused on distinct aspects of the larger research question. The following explanation not only outlines the specific studies but also provides the reasoning behind research decisions.


THE SURVEY: BORROWING AND EXPANDING
ON THE PSYCHOLOGICAL TRADITION

Quantitative researchers like to say they can measure anything—a person's intelligence, creativity, even cognitive development. To explore journalists' moral development, we used a 30-year-old test that measures the quality of reasoning individuals use when faced with ethical dilemmas. Its full name is the arcane-sounding “Defining Issues Test, ” but researchers in the field col-

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