Dr. Julie Andsager from the University of Iowa and Rob Daves, a pollster at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, with Dr. Tudor Vlad.

Graduates of U.S. Journalism Programs Give Mixed Support to Media Rights

Despite their specialized training, graduates of university journalism and mass communication programs in the United States are hardly absolutists in terms of media rights, a study by researchers at the University of Georgia has revealed.

Rather, the graduates of the U.S. journalism and mass communication programs give qualified support to such media rights as the reporting of classified materials and protecting confidential sources.

The findings were labeled as “worrying” by researchers Drs. Tudor Vlad and Lee B. Becker, because they show that those entering careers in mass communication are not like to fight for the protection of media rights essential for the preservation of democracy.

Dr. Vlad, assistant director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, and Dr. Becker, director of the Cox Center, presented the results of their research at the annual conference of the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research meeting in November in Chicago. The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

Only three in 10 of the journalism and mass communication graduates said the media should be protected all the time when television newscasts include video that may contain a message from terrorists, the researchers reported. Nearly six in 10 said the media should be protected only “under certain circumstances.”

Nearly four in 10 of the graduates said the media should be protected when journalists write stories about U.S. soldiers in combat that portray them unfavorably, while just a slightly higher ratio said the media should be protected in this case “under certain circumstances.”

“That so many of the graduates do not see these as basic, clear and absolute rights says a lot,” the researchers wrote in the research paper made available after the oral summary of the findings. Dr. Vlad noted in those oral comments that the clamp down on the independent media in Russia in recent years followed the realization on the part of the Russian leaders that the media enjoyed little support from the public.

The findings come from a national survey of graduates of journalism and mass communication programs conducted in late 2004 and early 2005. The results of the 2004 graduates of journalism and mass communication programs also were compared with responses of 1994 graduates of journalism and mass communication programs.

Those comparisons show that little has changed. They also show that women are less supportive of media rights than men and that graduates who specialized in journalism were more supportive of media rights than those who specialized in other mass communication areas of study such as advertising, public relations and telecommunications.

The data come from the Annual Surveys of Journalism & Mass Communication, which are housed in the Cox Center and supported by communication associations, foundations supporting journalism education, and media organizations.

The data from the 1994 graduates were compared with data gathered in 1990 and 1991 from a national sample of the general population. The graduates were found to be more supportive of media rights than the general population.

Approximately 120 researchers attended the meeting in Chicago, held November 18 and 19.