Two Mindsets among U.S. Journalists: Neutral & Activist

Greg Munno, Megan Craig, Kate Farrish, Alex Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This mixed-method study examines the mindset journalists in the United States bring to their work in an effort to gain insight into emerging journalistic viewpoints and their relationship to established doctrines and roles. Study 1 (n = 167) asked professional journalists, journalism professors, and student journalists to rank statements on journalism ethics and norms from most to least like their mindset toward the profession. Using the factor analysis procedure common to Q methodology, we identified two distinct mindsets among the participants. One factor expresses a neutral journalistic mindset that favors dispassionate reporting. The other shows more concern with the impact of journalism on its sources and a desire for more engagement in political discourse. A participant pool larger than that of a typical Q study allowed for additional quantitative analysis that identified significant differences in mindset by age, gender, professional experience, and journalistic platform. Using an explanatory-sequential design, study 2 (n = 16) further explored the journalistic mindset—the underlying web of beliefs and attitudes about the profession’s core values—with a textual analysis of follow-up interviews. The results have applications to research on journalistic norms, boundaries, and ethics, and may provide insight into the divisions generating conflict in many newsrooms today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1779-1801
Number of pages23
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2022


  • Journalism
  • Q-method
  • boundaries
  • mindsets
  • norms
  • roles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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