The disappearing media ethics debate in letters to the editor

Journal of Mass Media Ethics 13 (1):40 – 55 (1998)

Abstract

How many letters to the editor published in today's popular magazines discuss media ethics? How do the number of letters to the editor about media ethics compare with lettersfrom an earlier era? To find some answers, this article compares the number of letters to the editor about journalistic standards contained in all the letters published in 10 popular magazines between 1982 and 1992 with those of 10 popular magazines published between 1902 and 1912. Of almost 42,000 letters to the editor published in 10 contemporary magazines studied here, roughly 3.5% discussed media ethics. In sharp contrast, a study of letters to the editor in the magazines published from 1902 to 1912 reveals a much higher percentage of readers' comments about journalistic ethics.This article explores the differences and asks why far fewer letters to the editor about journalism were published in the recent decade than in the past.

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