Sometimes I wonder why I still subscribe to
academic journals in print, but tonight is not such a time. True, sooner or
later, every journal’s content will be available in library databases or in
some cases even on the Web. And some do reach my shelves after months of neglect and a hurried ToC glance. But there is something tangibly satisfying about ripping open an envelope, removing an unassuming little book, and kicking back on a sofa after
work to have unanticipated thoughts provoked.

Today’s arrival was the Journal of Mass Media
Ethics
, a.k.a JMME, volume 26, number 1, a “special issue on media accountability.” (Actually,
this is part 2 of a twin of special issues on the topic, the first having appeared late last year, leading with a paper on “How The Daily
Show with Jon Stewart Holds Traditional Broadcast News Accountable”.) You
may be able to see full contents through library access to its publisher’s
Informaworld service; otherwise, only abstracts are online for free.

In print, though, my
bedtime reading surprise included a description and assessment of “social
audits
” conducted by The Guardian since 2003 to see
if the paper is living up to its founding ideals. And an ethical examination of anonymous comments posted to online news stories (one suggestion: tailor the terms of invitations
to comment to individual stories, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all policy). And a proposal of a new model of community-based “ethics examiners” working
for independently funded media councils, instead of the endangered species of “insider”
ombuds paid by news organizations themselves.

And then came the “Cases and Commentaries” section, a regular feature
of the journal, this one providing a case study of the challenges facing reporters
assigned to cover the brilliant, irascible and probably artificially enhanced home-run
record-breaker Barry Bonds. The study was followed by reflections by three Bay Area sports reporters who had to figure out how to deal with Bonds fairly.

In a time of my life that sadly involves far more
rushing than reading, my hour on the sofa with JMME was a welcome respite tonight.

(J-Source insider note: the issue includes a stunningly laudatory review by senior-statesperson U.S. media ethicist Clifford
Christians of J-Source columnist Stephen J.A. Ward’s 2010 book, Global
Journalism Ethics
, in which the reviewer places the book “in the same
class as Walter Lippman’s (1922) Public Opinion” and other formative
works of the past century. JMME insider note: Ward is an associate editor of JMME and Christians is
a member of its editorial advisory board. Canadian insider note: for a rather
more reserved judgment of Ward’s work, see Paul Knox’s review in the Literary
Review of Canada.)


Sometimes I wonder why I still subscribe to
academic journals in print, but tonight is not such a time. True, sooner or
later, every journal’s content will be available in library databases or in
some cases even on the Web. And some do reach my shelves after months of neglect and a hurried ToC glance. But there is something tangibly satisfying about ripping open an envelope, removing an unassuming little book, and kicking back on a sofa after
work to have unanticipated thoughts provoked.

Today’s arrival was the Journal of Mass Media
Ethics
, a.k.a JMME, volume 26, number 1, a “special issue on media accountability.” (Actually,
this is part 2 of a twin of special issues on the topic, the first having appeared late last year, leading with a paper on “How The Daily
Show with Jon Stewart Holds Traditional Broadcast News Accountable”.) You
may be able to see full contents through library access to its publisher’s
Informaworld service; otherwise, only abstracts are online for free.

In print, though, my
bedtime reading surprise included a description and assessment of “social
audits
” conducted by The Guardian since 2003 to see
if the paper is living up to its founding ideals. And an ethical examination of anonymous comments posted to online news stories (one suggestion: tailor the terms of invitations
to comment to individual stories, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all policy). And a proposal of a new model of community-based “ethics examiners” working
for independently funded media councils, instead of the endangered species of “insider”
ombuds paid by news organizations themselves.

And then came the “Cases and Commentaries” section, a regular feature
of the journal, this one providing a case study of the challenges facing reporters
assigned to cover the brilliant, irascible and probably artificially enhanced home-run
record-breaker Barry Bonds. The study was followed by reflections by three Bay Area sports reporters who had to figure out how to deal with Bonds fairly.

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In a time of my life that sadly involves far more
rushing than reading, my hour on the sofa with JMME was a welcome respite tonight.

(J-Source insider note: the issue includes a stunningly laudatory review by senior-statesperson U.S. media ethicist Clifford
Christians of J-Source columnist Stephen J.A. Ward’s 2010 book, Global
Journalism Ethics
, in which the reviewer places the book “in the same
class as Walter Lippman’s (1922) Public Opinion” and other formative
works of the past century. JMME insider note: Ward is an associate editor of JMME and Christians is
a member of its editorial advisory board. Canadian insider note: for a rather
more reserved judgment of Ward’s work, see Paul Knox’s review in the Literary
Review of Canada.)

Professor, School of Journalism; Senior Fellow, Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University