The Divide Between Journalists and the Audience: Perceptions of Journalism Credibility at a Statewide Level


  • Raymond McCaffrey University of Arkansas
  • Bobbie J. Foster
  • Christie Welter
  • Janine Parry University of Arkansas



This two-part study examined the perception of journalism ethical standards by both the public and media professionals on a statewide level. In part one of the study, a statewide poll found that only 14% of Arkansas residents rated the honesty and ethical standards of journalists as high or very high. The results are about 9 percentage points below the findings of a national Gallup poll in 2015 in which the public ranked the ethical standards of journalists. In contrast, part two of the study revealed that 75% of Arkansas media professionals surveyed rated the honesty and ethical standards of journalists as high or very high. Still, 85% of the media professionals also said they thought ethical violations were damaging their profession. Journalists were split about the most common ethical complaint from readers and viewers – 45% said bias, 45% said inaccuracy, and 10% said fairness. Asked what medium they thought was the source of the most ethical violations, 20% blamed broadcast (TV); 25% blamed the Internet; 40% blamed social media; 5% blamed social media and broadcast; 5% blamed social media and the Internet; and 5% blamed social media, broadcast, and the Internet. The responses of these journalists were consistent with the theory of paradigm repair, which posits that journalists engage in discursive strategies to defend their profession in the face of ethical scandals, such as ignoring these ethics offenses or shifting the blame to other sources, such as new technology


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