Community journalists, most of whom work and live in small towns, are likely to create personal relationships with sources and local organizations because of their proximity and involvement in the community. Such relationships may raise ethical questions that explore how journalists manage personal ties in the community. Using a grounded theory approach, the researcher analyzed 15 qualitative, in-depth interviews, this research examined ways in which journalists in six Western communities weigh their personal relationships against traditional journalism norms such as objectivity and detachment. Analysis of these interviews found community journalists fear conflicts of interest, and many of the interview subjects said that if they know a source personally or are a member of an organization, they often try to rescue themselves from coverage of a story. The research also explored ways in which the community journalists take advantage of their community involvement, especially as it pertains to gathering information and developing sources. Respondents were asked how they suggested a reporter balance membership in the local dominant faith with coverage of church issues. The community journalists who were interviewed mostly did not see a conflict between membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and coverage of church issues. Analysis also showed that the editors had few policies governing community involvement, instead relying on reporters' personal judgment and counsel from leadership—while examining each case individually based on its prominence. Finally, this study attempted to explore the differences in community involvement between smaller and larger community newspapers. However, the research suggests that other causes, such as demographics, roots and ties to the community, leadership, and formal training, may play an equal role in encouraging involvement.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





community journalism, ethics, relationships, sources, community groups, LDS Church, political activity



Included in

Communication Commons