04 February 2005

Journalists Pass Social Responsibility Test

If a journalist writes a column telling you a couple of journalism professors found that journalists test well on ethics ... well, would you be skeptical?

I was.

The column, by Peter Johnson, appears in the Life section of USA Today and reads pretty much like the professors' press release. The article is not skeptical of the findings and only the professors and Tom Rosenstiel are quoted.

Would it surprise you to find out that a survey similar to the one being reported by Johnson, with similar results, was done in 1995? Surprised me, especially since it's not mentioned by Johnson or Rosenstiel. The day before Johnson's USA Today column was published, Erica Rogers wrote in the Daily Nebraskan:

The "Defining Issues Test," written by Dr. James Rest and based on Lawrence Kohlberg's theoretical "stages of moral development" has been given to 20,000 people during the previous 30 years. In 1995 Journalists scored just below theologians and physicians - professions considered to be highly ethical.
Hey! That's the same test this survey used, except Professor Wilkins says it's been given to 30,000 professionals over the past 30 years:
Lee Wilkins, journalism professor in the Missouri School of Journalism, and Renita Coleman of Louisiana State University, administered the Defining Issues Test, which measures moral development, to 249 reporters from print and broadcast newsrooms from across the country. The test, according to Wilkins, has been given to at least 30,000 professionals over the past 30 years; however, it had never been given to journalists.
Huh. Never been given to journalists according to Wilkins. Journalists scored just below theologians and physicians in 1995, according to Rogers. Maybe the 1995 date is a typo in Rogers' column? Maybe the number tested over the past 30 years is wrong, too. No worries - give or take 10,000 - that's what I always say.

Then there is Johnson's set up for Rosenstiel's quote:
Tom Rosenstiel of Columbia University's Project for Excellence in Journalism says the findings echo what the Pew Research Center found in a survey of journalists in 1999.
Really? Here is the 1999 Pew report. And here is a summary of the recent survey's findings:
... a new book-length study by a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher found that journalism is one of the most morally developed professions in the country, ranking behind only seminarians, physicians and medical students. ...

They found that journalists scored fourth highest among professionals tested, above dental students, nurses, graduate students, undergraduate college students, veterinary students and adults in general. No significant differences were found between various groups of journalists, including men and women, or broadcast and print reporters. Journalists who did civic journalism or investigative reporting scored significantly higher those who did not. When ethical problems were professionally focused, journalists performed even better.
I couldn't find in the 1999 Pew report where journalists "scored" high on morals or ethics, or that the journalistic profession is "one of the most morally developed professions in the country" as stated in this recent survey's summary. Instead, the Pew report surveyed journalists' opinions about their own professional principles, values and organization's ethics programs, but does that qualify as an echo of this survey's findings?

Confused yet?

Here is the 2004 Pew survey of journalists. Why does Rosenstiel (according to Johnson) refer to the 1999 report when it's been "updated" with one from last year? Why not say that it echoes, or contradicts, the 2004 report? Hmmm ....
Values and the Press: Journalists at national and local news organizations are notably different from the general public in their ideology and attitudes toward political and social issues. Most national and local journalists, as well as a plurality of Americans (41%), describe themselves as political moderates. But news people ­ especially national journalists are more liberal, and far less conservative, than the general public.
That's not the same, is it? Being more liberal and being more ethical?

Maybe. While I was googling around for this post, I found this 1998 abstract:
Previous research has consistently shown that those on the political Right tend to prefer or use conventional or Stage 4 moral reasoning, while those on the political Left prefer principled or Stage 5 reasoning (cf. Kohlberg, 1976).
And this 2004 abstract:
Liberals and moderates scored significantly higher than conservatives did in postconventional reasoning on the DIT-2 but not on the SSMS. These results support findings of previous research demonstrating the political dimensions of the DIT, as well as reinforce the multidimensional nature of moral behavior and moral judgment.
Now there's an echo! Journalists are more liberal. Liberals score higher on the Defining Issues Test (DIT). Correlation established!

Is that what Rosenstiel meant to say? He really meant the echo was from the 2004 Pew report, not the one from 1999? Let's go back to the tape, as they say.

After telling us that Rosenstiel hears an echo from 1999 in this new academic survey, Johnson quotes Rosenstiel:
"Most of them got into the business out of a sense that journalism helps democracy work and that they are helping their fellow citizens," [Rosenstiel] says.

"Journalists get in this business out of an overriding sense of wanting to serve the public interest. They work bad hours, are grossly underpaid, they are derided by other media in Hollywood and increasingly distrusted by the public.

"So if you're not motivated by a sense of public mission, there's not a lot of reason to do it."
I've read a fair share of moral philosophers, but it wasn't until Rosenstiel's quote, at the end of Johnson's column, that I got an inkling of which moral philosophy the DIT uses. Rosenstiel's quote equates "serve the public interest" and "sense of public mission" with being more morally developed.

Here is a history of the DIT from a paper presented by Mathew Cabot in August 2004. He administered "the DIT to more than 170 students at California State University, Long Beach, most of whom were public relations majors. While the DIT has been administered to hundreds of thousands of participants, it has not, to this author's knowledge, been administered to public relations students." [emphasis added, there sure does seem to be a lot of confusion about how many people have taken this test]
In the 1970s, a Harvard researcher named Lawrence Kohlberg created a six-stage model of moral development based on the work of Jean Piaget. The model emerged out of Kohlberg's extensive interviews with children and adults, which showed, according to the researcher, that there were three levels of moral development, each consisting of two stages. The first level, called Preconventional, is self-focused. At stage one, individuals have a punishment and obedience orientation in which they understand right as being obedience to an authority figure and avoidance of punishment. At stage two, individuals see right actions as those which meet their own needs. At this stage, as with the first, there is little regard for others.

The second level, called Conventional, consists of stages three and four. At stage three, the individual has an "interpersonal concordance" orientation, where the right choice is one that results in social approval. At stage four, individuals have a "law and order" orientation, where right and wrong are tied directly to formal rules and laws.

At the third level, called Postconventional, individuals are categorized into what Kohlberg calls the "principle" stages. At stage five, individuals have a "social contract" orientation, where a moral right is based on social principles behind the laws. Finally, at stage six, individuals have a "universal ethical principle" orientation, where they adhere to universally valued principles (e.g., justice for all).
The DIT is not without its skeptics or challengers. I found this from Cabot's paper telling:
Another challenge to the DIT is the questionable relationship between one's score on a moral reasoning test and how one would actually behave in a real-life ethical dilemma: When people come across moral conflicts in their lives the question they are faced with is: "what should I do?" which is different to "what should one do?".[sic] Reasoning in real-life situations involves decisions which are much more practical, self-serving and less rational than the reasoning of hypothetical characters. (Haviv & Leman, p. 124)
Maybe testing well on the DIT doesn't tell us much, after all. Johnson might have told us about these "challenges".

In 2001, Lee Edwards (a Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought at the Heritage Foundation) wrote a column for Hoover Digest called Mediapolitik. In it, he states "According to the political scientist Doris Graber, most journalists in free countries follow either a libertarian or a social responsibility philosophy." [link added, also see Four Theories of the Press]

OK, so what have we learned? The DIT favors a social responsibility philosophy. Journalists score well on the DIT. There ya go.

Was that so hard?

If you want to read more about the DIT, here is a long discussion about it.
If you want to read a sample dilemma from the DIT, go here.

HT: PressThink

10 January 2005

Iraq v1.4

Iraq 1.0 (March 19, 2003 - April 14, 2003): The "Regime Change" phase. That was our successful invasion of Iraq. Oh, for those glory days.

Iraq 1.1 (April 15, 2003 - May 11, 2003): The "Garner" phase. Major combat is over. Garner wasn't there a month.

Iraq 1.2 (May 12, 2003 - June 28, 2004): The "Bremer" phase. Commence the insurgency. Saddam's sons killed, Saddam captured. We've got the Baathist bull by the horn and the jihadi tiger by the tail now. Muqtada al-Sadr goes on a rampage. Abu Ghraib.

Iraq 1.3 (June 29, 2004 - January 30, 2005): The "Negroponte" phase. More of the same, but more of it. And not in a good way. The insurgency's been effective in keeping 100,000-150,000 US troops deployed in Iraq. Call-ups, Stop-Loss, and rotations to support that are taking their toll. Wounded and fatalities are building up. The rate of wounded and killed is not high compared to history, but the intensity of the war may be similar to Vietnam.

So what's in store for Iraq 1.4?

Brent Scowcroft is predicting civil war:

"The Iraqi elections, rather than turning out to be a promising turning point, have the great potential for deepening the conflict," Scowcroft said. He said he expects increased divisions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims after the Jan. 30 elections, when experts believe the government will be dominated by the majority Shiites.

Scowcroft predicted "an incipient civil war" would grip Iraq and said the best hope for pulling the country from chaos would be to turn the U.S. operation over to NATO or the United Nations -- which, he said, would not be so hostilely viewed by Iraqis.
Larry Diamond, a former Bremer adviser, echoes Scowcroft's concern:
IRAQ is about to reach a point of no return. If, as President Bush insists, it goes ahead with elections for the new transitional government on Jan. 30, Iraq may score a huge moral and political victory for democracy over violence and terrorism. More likely, however, these elections will only increase political polarization and violence by entrenching the perceptions of Sunni Arab marginalization that are helping to drive the violence in the first place. This would not be the first instance when badly timed and ill-prepared elections set back the prospects for democracy, stability and ethnic accommodation. Think of Angola in 1992, Bosnia in 1996, Liberia in 1997.
Diamond's not calling for NATO or the UN to ride to the rescue, but he sees the need to postpone the elections scheduled for January 30, 2005.

The elections in Iraq denote the beginning of Iraq 1.4, for the better or worse. It's hard to imagine it's going to get better anytime soon, but turning Operation Iraqi Freedom over to NATO or the UN sounds hollow to me. The Sunni/jihadis are killing Iraqis, foreigners and destroying infrastructure NOT because they are hoping it will force us to turn Iraq over to NATO or the UN. They blew up the UN in Iraq back in August 2003. I'm also unconvinced that NATO or the UN would be less of an irritant to the Sunnis if they are irritated by the idea of living in a majority run Shiite state. That's a political problem that is fueling a military problem. I don't see that political problem getting better with time by postponing the elections.

I'm not saying we need to hold elections on January 30 just because we decided to write that date in the Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period:
The second phase shall begin after the formation of the Iraqi Transitional Government, which will take place after elections for the National Assembly have been held as stipulated in this Law, provided that, if possible, these elections are not delayed beyond 31 December 2004, and, in any event, beyond 31 January 2005. This second phase shall end upon the formation of an Iraqi government pursuant to a permanent constitution.
I'm asking, "What's the proposed silver bullet that's going to change the security situation for the better if we don't hold them on schedule?" In fact, not only will the security situation get worse, but negotiating new alternative election schemes could be a nightmare.
You can't compare the idea of district voting to the reality of a nationwide vote. In fact, other former Bremer aides say that districting was preferred as an idea but "the practical problems were overwhelming."
The bottomline is that the security situation isn't going to get better for a future election, and it's going to get worse after the planned one. Period. Elections in Iraq Are a Lose-Lose Proposition for us. We need to have them anyway. We also need to face facts that a worsening security situation in Iraq means we need a bigger force.

We've needed a bigger force for many years. But a bigger force is not needed to put more American boots on the ground in Iraq. To that extent, I think Scowcroft is correct. We are an irritant. We need a bigger force to relieve the pressure on the troops rotating into Iraq, both active and Guard/Reserve. Congress should have raised the force limits after 9/11 and Bush should have demanded it. We needed to be recruiting then so they would be available now. Retention remains high, but recruiting is down and the Guard is in trouble. Water under the bridge now, you say, but how long before we recognize our mistake and do it?

What we need is Luck. What we're getting is retired General Luck.
The Pentagon is sending a retired four-star Army general to Iraq next week to conduct an unusual "open-ended" review of the military's entire Iraq policy, including troop levels, training programs for Iraqi security forces and the strategy for fighting the insurgency, senior Defense Department officials said Thursday.

The extraordinary leeway given to the highly regarded officer, Gen. Gary E. Luck, a former head of American forces in South Korea and currently a senior adviser to the military's Joint Forces Command, underscores the deep concern by senior Pentagon officials and top American commanders over the direction that the operation in Iraq is taking, and its broad ramifications for the military, said some members of Congress and military analysts.
Gen. Luck's had a VERY distinguished career and is something of an icon for many: Commander of Joint Special Operations Command, first Commander of US Army Special Operations, Commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, Commander in Chief, United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/Commander, U.S. Forces, Korea. His son, LTC Gary (Skip) E. Luck, Jr., took command of the 3/15th Infantry Battalion in Iraq back in June 2003. It will be interesting to read Gen. Luck's recommendations when he reports back. We could use some Luck in Iraq.

Additional References:

Council on Foreign Relations timeline.

UPDATE: Hot Topic: How U.S. Might Disengage in Iraq: "But all over Washington, there is talk about new ways to define when the mission is accomplished - not to cut and run, but not to linger, either. Several administration officials acknowledge that Mr. Bush will face crucial decisions soon after Jan. 30, when it should become clearer whether the election has resulted in more stability or more insurgency."

[Note: The period between 1991 and 2003, consisting of cat-and-mouse inspections, sanctions, no-fly zones and surface-to-air combat, was Iraq's beta phase.]