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Focus on Profits is Diminishing Journalism's Impact, Prof. Jeff McCall '76 Says in St. Louis Journalism Review

April 12, 2004

April 12, 2004, Greencastle, Ind. - Jeffrey McCall, professor of communication arts and sciences, tells the St. Louis Journalism Review that journalism's "role as a profit center may be contributing to a 'cultural drift' in the mission of journalism that ultimately will diminish the role of journalism in society and lessen its impact in the discussion of important public affairs." The article examines a University of Missouri (MU)-Columbia that suggests a changing code of ethics may be to blame for the public's increasingly negative view of journalists. Dr. McCall adds, "Certainly, media organizations must have financial stability to stay in operation, but as the MU researchers assert, economic goals are now likely overwhelming the information and public affairs objectives of journalism."

The study finds that, with many newspapers that were once privately held now publicly traded, obligations to shareholders and meeting profit targets have superceded the papers' role of serving the public trust.

Michael Martin writes, "Ethical codes may be evolving, but so are audiences, tastes, and the marketplace. Consequently, 'there is plenty of blame to go around for the declining nature of our news media,' McCall told SJR. "Some of the blame must be on the audience. As long as the audience is enamored with celebrity and scandal news, the agenda-setters in the media will keep serving it up to them.' As the agenda-setters, however, 'media people should shoulder most of the blame,' McCall concluded. 'They take the initiative on setting the public agenda, and they should be the professionals who know best how to do it.'"

Read the story in its entirety by clicking here.

Jeff McCall is a 1976 graduate of DePauw. Access his recent op-ed on the Federal Communications Commission's crackdown on broadcast obscenity by clicking here.