A Longitudinal and Contextual Analysis of Media Representation of Business Ethics

Ralf Barkemeyer, Diane Holt, Frank Figge, Giulio Napolitano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present an analysis of media representation of business ethics within 62 international newspapers to explore the longitudinal and contextual evolution of business ethics and associated terminology. Levels of coverage and contextual analysis of the content of the articles are used as surrogate measures of the penetration of business ethics concepts into society. Design/methodology/approach – This paper uses a text mining application based on two samples of data: analysis of 62 national newspapers in 21 countries from 1990 to 2008; analysis of the content of two samples of articles containing the term business ethics (comprised of 100 newspaper articles spread over an 18-year period from a sample of US and UK newspapers). Findings – The paper demonstrates increased coverage of sustainability topics within the media over the last 18 years associated with events such as the Rio Summit. Whilst some peaks are associated with business ethics scandals, the overall coverage remains steady. There is little apparent use in the media of concepts such as corporate citizenship. The academic community and company ethical codes appear to adopt a wider definition of business ethics more akin to that associated with sustainability, in comparison with the focus taken by the media, especially in the USA. Coverage demonstrates clear regional bias and contextual analysis of the articles in the UK and USA also shows interesting parallels and divergences in the media representation of business ethics. Originality/value – A promising avenue to explore how the evolution of sustainability issues including business ethics can be tracked within a societal context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-396
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Business Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Business and International Management

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