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What Journalism Textbooks Teach Us About Newsroom Ethos
Unformatted Document Text:  Running Head: Textbooks and Newsroom Ethos 24 thinking either, for it affords them a degree of comfort when dispatching journalists to wherever the latest conflagration erupts. The profession has been so effective in fortifying these constructs and perpetuating a very public myth that researchers in the field of psychological stress have, to date, passed them by. 85 This “public myth” was taught to generations of journalists in journalism textbooks. In teaching this myth, textbook writers went beyond the bounds of simply explicating a professional code. According to institutional theory, Meyer and Rowan write, professional codes “are linked by explicit goals and policies that make up a rational theory of how, and to what end, activities are to be fitted together.” 86 The result, they write, are “powerful institutional rules which function as highly rationalized myths that are binding on particular organizations.” 87 Textbook writers helped developed a true mythology around journalists, one replete with heroes and legends centered around risk, courage and detachment. It is these legends, not the codes themselves, that can serve to endanger journalists. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, wrote that “(m)yths go back to the primitive storyteller and his dreams, to men moved by the stirring of their fantasies.” 88 And as myths go, Jung wrote, “(t)he myth of the hero is the most common and the best known myth in the world.” 89 Less clear is the reason why journalism textbook writers – men and women who often were not hardboiled reporters but journalism professors with advanced degrees – felt compelled to help create these legends and hero myths. Perhaps one answer lies in the very human reason that storytellers have traditionally resorted to hero myths. When asked by journalist Bill Moyers why “there are so many stories of the hero in mythology,” the mythologist Joseph Campbell replied: “Because that‟s what‟s worth writing about. Even in popular novels, the main character is a hero or heroine who has found or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience. A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” 90

Authors: McCaffrey, Raymond.
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Running Head: Textbooks and Newsroom Ethos              24 
 
thinking either, for it affords them a degree of comfort when dispatching journalists to 
wherever the latest conflagration erupts. The profession has been so effective in fortifying 
these constructs and perpetuating a very public myth that researchers in the field of 
psychological stress have, to date, passed them by.
85
 
     This “public myth” was taught to generations of journalists in journalism textbooks. In 
teaching this myth, textbook writers went beyond the bounds of simply explicating a professional 
code.  According to institutional theory, Meyer and Rowan write, professional codes “are linked 
by explicit goals and policies that make up a rational theory of how, and to what end, activities 
are to be fitted together.”
86
 The result, they write, are “powerful institutional rules which 
function as highly rationalized myths that are binding on particular organizations.”
87
 Textbook 
writers helped developed a true mythology around journalists, one replete with heroes and 
legends centered around risk, courage and detachment. It is these legends, not the codes 
themselves, that can serve to endanger journalists. 
     Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, wrote that “(m)yths go back to the primitive storyteller 
and his dreams, to men moved by the stirring of their fantasies.”
88
 And as myths go, Jung wrote,  
“(t)he myth of the hero is the most common and the best known myth in the world.”
89
   
     Less clear is the reason why journalism textbook writers – men and women who often were 
not hardboiled reporters but journalism professors with advanced degrees – felt compelled to 
help create these legends and hero myths. Perhaps one answer lies in the very human reason that 
storytellers have traditionally resorted to hero myths. When asked by journalist Bill Moyers why 
“there are so many stories of the hero in mythology,” the mythologist Joseph Campbell replied:  
“Because that‟s what‟s worth writing about. Even in popular novels, the main character is a hero 
or heroine who has found or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and 
experience. A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
90
 


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