IU School of Journalism professor David Weaver described his research and gave his answer to the question, “The Global Journalist in the 21st Century: Are U.S. journalists really that different?” at the June meeting of the Bloomington Press Club.
The short answer is “no,” based on Weaver’s findings, but in his survey of more than 30,000 journalists in 31 countries, he and co-author Lars Willnat found plenty of ethical and practical differences.
“There may be no typical global journalist, but there are some signs of increasing agreements with some of their roles,” said Weaver, who has studied the lives of American journalists before, collaborating with several IU faculty over the years to publish four books that report on the journalist’s experience in different decades.
Weaver and Willnat will report the latest findings in the second edition of The Global Journalist in the 21st Century: News People Around the World, to be published this fall.
For the press club presentation, Weaver showed charts to describe the findings, which were gathered over two and a half years from surveys conducted independently in each of the countries. They looked at demographics, such as gender and nationality, as well as attitudes. Survey responses ranged from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
A few findings:
- Is it acceptable to use personal documents without permission? 40 percent of U.S. journalists agreed, while an average of 23 percent of overall respondents agreed.
- Is it acceptable to pay for secret info? U.S. journalists ranked far below the average with 32 percent agreed, but 60 percent of Indonesian journalists agreed.
- Is it acceptable to claim to be someone else to get information? U.S. ranked far below the average of 32 percent.
- Is it acceptable to badger sources? The average who agreed was 37 percent, with the top three Korea, Hong Kong and the U.S.
- Is it acceptable to go undercover as employees? The average was 44 percent agreed, with U.S. slightly above.
Weaver said the differences rest on the country’s politics and government, as well as cultural differences in the profession. This is why the authors recruited 80 chapter authors who live, work and teach journalism in those countries, to explain the data for each country.
“We can’t predict how journalists will answer based on the country they are in, though,” said Weaver. For example, Sweden and Demark are similar geographically and demographically, but the journalists surveyed had very different responses.
“You have to know the history, how journalists relate to government,” he said. “We asked chapter authors for explanations about why journalists in their countries replied a certain way.”
As for the U.S., Weaver said journalists are a bit older, more likely to be college graduates, and more committed to journalism as a profession than those of some other countries. They also are more likely to take seriously the watchdog role, more likely to be committed to reporting the news quickly, and less aggressive in paying sources or posing as someone else.