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The Invention of Journalism Ethics
The Path to Objectivity and Beyond

Ward, Stephen J.A.
Publisher:  McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal & Kingston, Canada
Year Published:  2005   First Published:  2004
Pages:  360pp   Price:  $65   ISBN:  0-7735-2810-5
Library of Congress Number:  PN4756.W37 2004   Dewey:  174'.90704

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Ward is an associate professor of journalism ethics at the School of Journalism, University of British Columbia; he was formerly with CP. This book is #38 in the McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Ideas. It deals with the twin subjects of journalism ethics and objectivity. Ward says that journalists and the public need a new theory to enable them to recognize and avoid biased and unbalanced reporting. At the same time, he recognizes that objectivity is not based on absolute standards. Rather, the situation, context, and the relationship with the elements of society come into play. He traces origins, and hence his work is also a history of journalism ethics (partisan English newsbooks of the 1600s, the objectivity in the late 1800s, modern day constructs of weaseling). Nevertheless, there is a difference between "journalist", "editor" and "publisher" which needs to be explored. While the first is covered in this book (along with society), it is actually the other two who make the major decisions. Could this book also herald the return of media literacy? There is a bibliography for further reading, plus a scholarly index.
Audience or interest level: academics, journalism ethicists, journalism students.

Some interesting facts: "I have not written a practical manual for implementing pragmatic objectivity. I have not analyzed news articles or news organizations. Instead, I have constructed a philosophical framework for understanding the evolution of journalism ethics and the concept of objectivity."

What I don't like about this resource (its shortcomings): I thought Ward needed to delve more into the publisher's profit motive. Freedom of the press belongs to the owner of the press, as A.J. Liebling said.

What I do like about this resource (its positives): an interesting read.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 88 (paperback)

[Review by Dean Tudor]


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