Borrowing Methods: The Perceived Influence of Reflective Positionality Work in Local Television Journalists

Elizabeth Bennett Hebbeln, University of Pennsylvania


Objective and unbiased news reporting has been a defining aspiration of mainstream journalism for more than a century. However, audiences and even journalists themselves are skeptical if not entirely doubtful that objectivity is an achievable norm. Journalists have long used external tactics to manage their own biases. These tactics range from consulting multiple sources to fact-checking work. However, rarely have journalists focused on understanding their own positionality as it is situated within their work. This dissertation addresses that issue by borrowing systematic reflective practices used in the field of qualitative research and applying them within the field of journalism. It takes a qualitative approach to explore the lived experiences of a set of journalists working in local television news. This study engaged the set in three ways: a pre-survey, a reflective writing intervention, and a post-interview. Through research design following an open-coding approach, this dissertation presents data suggesting that reflective writing resulted in a greater sense of awareness around identity and bias among the journalists involved in the study. However, journalists were skeptical of its long-term utility and the likelihood of reflective writing to develop into an operationalized practice in their industry, particularly given time pressure in a deadline driven environment. The findings from this study represent the self-reported experience of participants. More research is needed, particularly a content analysis, to determine if reflective writing has an influence over journalists' work.

Subject Area

Journalism|Occupational psychology|Rhetoric

Recommended Citation

Hebbeln, Elizabeth Bennett, "Borrowing Methods: The Perceived Influence of Reflective Positionality Work in Local Television Journalists" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28000082.