Last modified: Thursday, September 5, 2002
IU study views Jerry Springer Show as morally conservative
The Jerry Springer Show, criticized by many as an assault on social values, is actually a morally conservative television program, according to research findings from Maria Elizabeth Grabe, associate professor of journalism at Indiana University.
"Maintaining the Moral Order: A Functional Analysis of The Jerry Springer Show" is the title of her report that appears in the current issue of the journal Critical Issues in Mass Communication.
"I analyzed the content of every cheer and jeer from the studio audience in 100 episodes over eight months and found that the show unambiguously sends a message that supports traditional family values," Grabe said. "In fact, based on a coding scheme that measured the show's moral stance on the seven deadly sins, my findings show that Springer delivers a message to a mass audience that would be supported by moralistic politicians and clergy."
Grabe is a former television producer whose research interests focus on broadcast journalism. She pointed out that many media critics, academics, clergy and politicians have said moral values are frequently violated on the syndicated daytime program. At the same time, she noted that sociologists argue that commonly held moral values must be violated and the villains publicly punished to reinforce moral boundaries.
"The goal of my study was to assess the Springer shows for fulfilling these social maintenance functions. My findings revealed that deviance from the traditional family values is frequently featured on the show, but that the studio audience and Jerry Springer played active roles in the public degradation of these transgressions, casting the show in a morally conservative light," she said.
The Springer show, which is taped in Chicago, emphasizes the sexual adventures and transgressions of the guests on a regular basis. Because of the content, some cities refuse to air the show. The program was recently rated the worst show on television by TV Guide.
For more information on her research project, contact Grabe at 812-855-1721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.