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Checking Misleading Speech: New Epistemic and Ethical Norms for Political Journalism in the American Public Sphere

Leli, Tyler James; (2022) Checking Misleading Speech: New Epistemic and Ethical Norms for Political Journalism in the American Public Sphere. Masters thesis (M.Phil.Stud), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Objectivity has been a guiding norm of American political journalism since the 1920s. Journalistic objectivity as impartial observation has given way to neutral observation, which I call performative objectivity. Performative objectivity defaults journalists to presenting information from popularly supported sides of political disputes as equally valid, stepping away from the idea that political journalism’s role is to check misleading speech. The result has been what I figuratively describe as a market failure in political speech in the American public sphere. My thesis argues for a new set of ethical and epistemic norms for political news journalists. Chapter 1 identifies a general trust deficit in political journalism, before arguing trustworthiness in political communication is earned through an iterative process wherein communicators are expected to (1) make reliable and truthful claims, (2) carry through their professional and normative commitments, and (3) be competent to carry through commitments. Chapter 2 identifies lying, spin, and ‘bullshit’ as three kinds of prevalent misleading speech in the American public sphere. Chapter 3 argues that unchecked misleading political speech undermines norms of truthfulness, cooperation, and democratic legitimacy, damages trust in democratic processes, and creates a problematic power-inequality in political communication. Unfortunately, neither a strictly deontological, consequentialist, nor a virtue ethics-led account of journalism can help American journalism fulfill its proper purpose. Chapter 4 argues the pluralistic standpoints of citizens should be integrated into reporting by incorporating the perspective of marginalized groups and the reporter’s position in society into the political journalists’ news production process. Establishing new epistemic and ethical norms from this grounding can build back public trust in American political journalism, serve as a more effective check on misleading political speech, and represent a wider variety of perspectives and experiences than performative objectivity’s commitment to neutral observation allows.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil.Stud
Title: Checking Misleading Speech: New Epistemic and Ethical Norms for Political Journalism in the American Public Sphere
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10144348
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