The professional role of journalism reflected in U.S. press reportage from 1950 to 2000
This study investigated the functional role changes of American newspapers in the second half of the twentieth century. Grounded on the libertarian and social responsibility theories, this study examined the role changes of the contemporary press from traditional and progressive perspectives. In probing the conventional traits of the contemporary press, we traced the changing patterns and trends of news values in terms of news-gathering routine and presentation style, in order to evaluate the journalistic role conceptions of “neutral and timely disseminators.” In measuring the progressive aspects of the modern press, next, we investigated the scholarly claims that the contemporary journalism has been progressively interpretative. Findings indicated that the role of the contemporary dailies as timely disseminators has continuously waned with the decline of reportage on the immediate past, while the journalistic contention of the press as a neutral transmitter has been consistently violated by source bias, topic bias, and geographic bias, without any significant changes during the last five decades. The data, however, revealed the evident shift of the contemporary press from descriptive toward interpretative journalism with the growth of participant-interpretative analysis which mainly concerns the reflection of social accountability.