Ron Rodgers to Present at Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference
University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Journalism Professor Ron Rodgers will be presenting a paper at the 2016 Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference on March 12 at New York University on “The Social Awakening and the Soul of News.”
The paper argues that the impulse for the struggle defining the ethics of the newspaper press as it shifted from a partisan to a commercial model at the turn of the last century was the notion of the “social awakening”– in this case the Progressive era’s awakening to the after-effects on society of Herbert Spencer’s ethical system of laissez-faire politics and extreme individualism that had held sway for so many years. This notion of a social awakening was expressed in a number of ways with an overlapping association of ideas hinged to it – William Howard Taft once called it the “quickening of the public conscience” – and countless observers referred to it with little in the way of explanation since it had become such a commonplace conceit.
This paper explores the long conversation about news ethics as it was hinged to the social awakening and the derivative of that discussion – the ineffable notion of the soul of news. The soul – at its most basic – was linked to the “general awakening of the social consciousness” and was part and parcel of a moral argument about news and service to society that trumped the demands of the market and its constraints on journalistic conduct and content.