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Journalism

Journalism is the investigation and reporting of events, issues, and trends to a broad audience. Although there is much variation within journalism, the ideal is to inform the citizenry. Besides covering organizations and institutions such as government and business, journalism also covers cultural aspects of society such as arts and entertainment. The field includes jobs such as editing, photojournalism, and documentary.

Johann Carolus's Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien, published in 1605 in Strassburg, is often recognized as the first newspaper. The first successful English daily, the Daily Courant, was published from 1702 to 1735.[1]

In modern society, news media have become the chief purveyors of information and opinion about public affairs; but the role and status of journalism, along with other forms of mass media, are undergoing changes resulting from the Internet, especially Web 2.0.

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Other styles

Newspapers and periodicals often contain features (see Feature style) often composed by journalists who specialize in this form.

Feature articles are usually longer forms of writing; more attention is paid to style than in straight news reports. They are often combined with photographs, drawings or other "art." They may also be highlighted by typographic effects or colors.

Writing features can be more demanding than writing straight news stories, because while a journalist must apply the same amount of effort to accurately gather and report the facts of the story, the journalist should also write it to be creative and interesting. The lead (or first few paragraphs of the story; see Nut graph) must grab the reader's attention and still accurately embody the ideas of the article.

In the last half of the 20th century, the line blurred between straight news reporting and feature writing. Journalists and publications today experiment with different approaches to writing. Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson are some of these examples. Urban and alternative newsweeklies go even further in blurring the distinction, and many magazines include more features than straight news.

Some television news shows experimented with alternative formats, and many TV shows that claimed to be news shows were not considered as such by traditional critics, because their content and methods do not adhere to accepted journalistic standards. National Public Radio, on the other hand, is considered a good example of mixing straight news reporting, features, and combinations of the two, usually meeting standards of high quality. Other U.S. public radio news organizations have achieved similar results.

[edit] Role of journalism in a Republic

In the 1920s, as modern journalism was just taking form, writer Walter Lippmann and American philosopher John Dewey debated over the role of journalism in a democracy. Their differing philosophies still characterize a debate about the role of journalism in society and the nation-state.

Lippmann understood that journalism's role at the time was to act as a mediator or translator between the public and policy making elites. The journalist became the middleman. When elites spoke, journalists listened and recorded the information, distilled it, and passed it on to the public for their consumption. His reasoning behind this was that the public was not in a position to deconstruct the growing and complex flurry of information present in modern society, and so an intermediary was needed to filter news for the masses. Lippman put it this way: The public is not smart enough to understand complicated, political issues. Furthermore, the public was too consumed with their daily lives to care about complex public policy. Therefore the public needed someone to interpret the decisions or concerns of the elite to make the information plain and simple. That was the role of journalists. Lippmann believed that the public would affect the decision-making of the elite with their vote. In the meantime, the elite (i.e. politicians, policy makers, bureaucrats, scientists, etc.) would keep the business of power running. In Lippman's world, the journalist's role was to inform the public of what the elites were doing. It was also to act as a watchdog over the elites, as the public had the final say with their votes. Effectively that kept the public at the bottom of the power chain, catching the flow of information that is handed down from experts/elites.

Dewey, on the other hand, believed the public was not only capable of understanding the issues created or responded to by the elite, it was in the public forum that decisions should be made after discussion and debate. When issues were thoroughly vetted, then the best ideas would bubble to the surface. Dewey believed journalists should do more than simply pass on information. He believed they should weigh the consequences of the policies being enacted. Over time, his idea has been implemented in various degrees, and is more commonly known as "community journalism".

This concept of community journalism is at the centre of new developments in journalism. In this new paradigm, journalists are able to engage citizens and the experts/elites in the proposition and generation of content. It's important to note that while there is an assumption of equality, Dewey still celebrates expertise. Dewey believes the shared knowledge of many is far superior to a single individual's knowledge. Experts and scholars are welcome in Dewey's framework, but there is not the hierarchical structure present in Lippman's understanding of journalism and society. According to Dewey, conversation, debate, and dialogue lie at the heart of a democracy.

While Lippman's journalistic philosophy might be more acceptable to government leaders, Dewey's approach is a better description of how many journalists see their role in society, and, in turn, how much of society expects journalists to function. Americans, for example, may criticize some of the excesses committed by journalists, but they tend to expect journalists to serve as watchdogs on government, businesses and actors, enabling people to make informed decisions on the issues of the time.

[edit] The elements of journalism

According to The Elements of Journalism, a book by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, there are nine elements of journalism [1]. In order for a journalist to fulfill their duty of providing the people with the information, they need to be free and self-governing. They must follow these guidelines:

  1. Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
  2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
  3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
  9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
  10. Its the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

In the April 2007 edition of the book [2], they added the last element, the rights and responsibilities of citizens to make it a total of ten elements of journalism.

[edit] Professional and ethical standards

Main Article: Journalism ethics and standards

In the UK, all newspapers are bound by the Code of Practice of the Press Complaints Commission[2]. This includes points like respecting people's privacy and ensuring accuracy. However, the Media Standards Trust has criticised the PCC, claiming it needs to be radically changed to secure public trust of newspapers.[3]

This is in stark contrast to the media climate prior to the 20th Century, where the media market was dominated by smaller newspapers and pamphleteers who usually had an overt and often radical agenda, with no presumption of balance or objectivity.

[edit] Failing to uphold standards

Such a code of conduct can, in the real world, be difficult to uphold consistently. Journalists who believe they are being fair or objective may give biased accountsâby reporting selectively, trusting too much to anecdote, or giving a partial explanation of actions. (See Media bias.) Even in routine reporting, bias can creep into a story through a reporter's choice of facts to summarize, or through failure to check enough sources, hear and report dissenting voices, or seek fresh perspectives.

A news organization's budget inevitably reflects decision-making about what news to cover, for what audience, and in what depth. Those decisions may reflect conscious or unconscious bias. When budgets are cut, editors may sacrifice reporters in distant news bureaus, reduce the number of staff assigned to low-income areas, or wipe entire communities from the publication's zone of interest.

Publishers, owners and other corporate executives, especially advertising sales executives, can try to use their powers over journalists to influence how news is reported and published. Journalists usually rely on top management to create and maintain a "firewall" between the news and other departments in a news organization to prevent undue influence on the news department. One journalism magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, has made it a practice to reveal examples of executives who try to influence news coverage, of executives who do not abuse their powers over journalists, and of journalists who resist such pressures.

Self-censorship is a growing problem in journalism, particularly in covering countries that sharply restrict press freedom. As commercial pressure in the media marketplace grows, media organizations are loath to lose access to high-profile countries by producing unflattering stories. For example, CNN admitted that it had practiced self-censorship in covering the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq in order to ensure continued access after the regime had thrown out other media. CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour also complained of self-censorship during the invasion of Iraq due to the fear of alienating key audiences in the US. There are claims that the media are also avoiding covering stories about repression and human rights violations by the Israeli and Iranian regimes in order to maintain a presence in those countries.

[edit] Reporting versus editorializing

Generally, publishers and consumers of journalism draw a distinction between reporting â "just the facts" â and opinion writing, often by restricting opinion columns to the editorial page and its facing or "op-ed" (opposite the editorials) page. Unsigned editorials are traditionally the official opinions of the paper's editorial board, while op-ed pages may be a mixture of syndicated columns and other contributions, frequently with some attempt to balance the voices across some political or social spectrum.

The distinction between reporting and opinion can break down. In the UK, the Press Complaints Commission states that "the Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact"[4] but some commentators have suggested there can sometimes be a blurring of opinion and fact.[5] Complex stories often require summarizing and interpretation of facts, especially if there is limited time or space for a story. Stories involving great amounts of interpretation are often labelled "news analysis," but still run in a paper's news columns. The limited time for each story in a broadcast report rarely allows for such distinctions.

[edit] Legal status

Journalists around the world often write about the governments in their nations, and those governments have widely varying policies and practices towards journalists, which control what they can research and write, and what press organizations can publish. Many Western governments guarantee the freedom of the press, and do relatively little to restrict press rights and freedoms, while other nations severely restrict what journalists can research and/or publish.

Journalists in many nations have enjoyed some privileges not enjoyed by members of the general public, including better access to public events, crime scenes and press conferences, and to extended interviews with public officials, celebrities and others in the public eye. These privileges are available because of the perceived power of the press to turn public opinion for or against governments, their officials and policies, as well as the perception that the press often represents their consumers. These privileges extend from the legal rights of journalists but are not guaranteed by those rights. Sometimes government officials may attempt to punish individual journalists who irk them by denying them some of these privileges extended to other journalists.

Nations or jurisdictions that formally license journalists may confer special privileges and responsibilities along with those licenses, but in the United States the tradition of an independent press has avoided any imposition of government-controlled examinations or licensing.[citation needed] Some of the states have explicit shield laws that protect journalists from some forms of government inquiry, but those statutes' definitions of "journalist" were often based on access to printing presses and broadcast towers. A national shield law has been proposed.

In some nations, journalists are directly employed, controlled or censored by their governments. In other nations, governments who may claim to guarantee press rights actually intimidate journalists with threats of arrest, destruction or seizure of property (especially the means of production and dissemination of news content), torture or murder.

Journalists who elect to cover conflicts, whether wars between nations or insurgencies within nations, often give up any expectation of protection by government, if not giving up their rights to protection by government. Journalists who are captured or detained during a conflict are expected to be treated as civilians and to be released to their national government.

[edit] Right to protect confidentiality of sources

Journalists' interaction with sources sometimes involves confidentiality, an extension of freedom of the press giving journalists a legal protection to keep the identity of a source private even when demanded by police or prosecutors; withholding sources can land journalists in contempt of court, or in jail.

The scope of rights granted to journalists varies from nation to nation; in the United Kingdom, for example, the government has had more legal rights to protect what it considers sensitive information, and to force journalists to reveal the sources of leaked information, than the United States. Other nations, particularly Zimbabwe and the People's Republic of China, have a reputation of persecuting journalists, both domestic and foreign.

In the United States, there has never been a right to protect sources in a federal court. Some states provide varying degrees of such protection. However, federal courts will refuse to force journalists to reveal sources, unless the information the court seeks is highly relevant to the case, and there's no other way to get it. Journalists, like all citizens, who refuse to testify even when ordered to can be found in contempt of court and fined or jailed.

[edit] Current state of journalism in the US

In 2008, journalism came under heavy fire. The decline of print newspapers has led to a sharp increase in job cuts for journalists. In 2008 alone, approximately 16,000 journalists had their employment terminated[6] â a budgetary response to declining subscription dollars and the inability to adapt to a free news-driven society. With advertising revenues taking a harsh rapping from the transitional shift of a subscription-based/advertising model to online ad placements, the discrepancy in advertising revenue is making it difficult for traditional newspapers to survive.

The Tribune Company (owner of the Los Angeles Times) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy;[7] The Rocky Mountain News (one of the country's oldest newspapers) closed its doors after 150 years of business;[8] The Christian Science Monitor transitioned from its daily newspaper edition to online distribution;[9] 120 newspapers closed their doors in the first three months of 2009;[10] newspaper circulation was down 7% in the first six months of 2009.[11] However, it is recognised that in high population density distribution areas, traditional newspapers have been in oversupply. The current rationalisation of the free press may not be so much the end of print, as the reformation of an over-saturated medium that now has to compete with the growth of news online.

Newspapers are forced to maximize their current staff in a response to declining advertising and circulation revenue.[12] As formerly relied upon revenues shore-up, newspapers are exploring radically new ways of reaching readers. The New York Times has partnered with Amazon's Kindle DX to bring current subscribers and Kindle users NYT content.[13] This, along with other social media properties, are ways in which traditional media are fighting to stay relevant in the digital age.

With the decline of print newspapers, there has been a wave of new media journalism. New media journalism is also known as convergence journalism. Convergence journalism focuses on using social networking as a means of communication as opposed to traditional print journalism. Many newspapers have begun publishing online to cut production costs; simultaneously, more people find news online instead of buying print newspapers. Recently, convergence journalism has been dominated by websites like Facebook and Twitter. With the evolution of new technologies, some experts predict print journalism will ultimately disappear, to be replaced by new media.

Besides, this new media age features the growth of multimedia, as some newspapers have begun publishing online, some journalists or journalism organizations also add their reporting through the internet on top of their traditional media outlets; and a lot of independent journalism production houses appear as well, which may feature both main stream news or unknown stories that are not cover in the news. Common Language Project is an example of a multimedia production house that features under-reported stories.

[edit] See also

[edit] Journalism reviews

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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