Date of Award

May 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Member

Bryan Denham

Committee Member

David Blakesley

Committee Member

Charles Starkey

Committee Member

Daniel Wueste


Today’s student journalists are creating work in an era of rapidly changing technology. Many of them have readership or viewership numbering in the thousands, and what they write and broadcast has an effect on people. While most professional journalists have studied ethics in school or discussed the subject in the workplace, many student journalists have not even had one ethics class. Many of them are seeking guidance as they grapple with ethical issues. This research studied 214 student journalists from every region in the United States through a survey of their attitudes towards ethical situations. The study discovered how they viewed situations that are forbidden in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, as well as additional situations that are considered unethical in some circumstances by professionals. This study points out that students practicing journalism need a complete portfolio of ethics theory and experiences to make the best possible ethical decisions. It is hoped that this information can be used to design effective ethics pedagogy for student journalists, ranging from informal discussions in their work on student media, to academic courses in mass communication or journalism ethics.



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