Journalism's main activities include stating who, what, when,
where, why and how (see the Five
Ws), and stating the significance and effects of certain events
or trends. Journalism exists in a number of media: newspapers,
and, most recently, the World
Wide Web through the Internet.
The subject matter of journalism can be anything and everything
that they choose, and journalists report and write on a wide variety
of subjects: politics on the international, national, provincial
and local levels, economics and business on the same four levels,
health and medicine,
sports, hobbies and recreation, lifestyles, clothing, food, pets,
and relationships; journalists report on anything that news organizations
think consumers will read. Journalists can report for general
interest news outlets like newspapers, news magazines and broadcast
sources; general circulation specialty publications like trade
and hobby magazines or for news publications and outlets with
a select group of subscribers. Journalists are usually expected
and required to go out to the scene of a story to gather information
for their reports, and often may compose their reports in the
field. They also use the telephone, the computer and the internet
to gather information. However, more often those reports are written,
and they are almost always edited in newsrooms,
the offices where journalists and editors
work together to prepare news content.
Journalists, especially if they cover a specific subject or area
(a "beat") are expected to cultivate sources, people in the subject
or area, that they can communicate with, either to explain the
details of a story, or to provide leads to other subjects of stories
yet to be reported. They are also expected to develop their investigative
skills to better research and report stories.
- For more information about writing a news story, see News
Print journalism can be split into several categories:newspapers,
news magazines, general interest magazines, trade magazines, hobby
magazines, newsletters, private publications, online news pages
and others. Each genre can have its own requirements for researching
and writing reports.
For example, newspaper journalists in the United States have
traditionally written reports using the inverted
pyramid style, although this style is used more for straight
or hard news reports rather than features. Written hard news reports
are expected to be spare in the use of words, and to list the
most important information first, so that, if the story must be
cut because there is not enough space for it, the least important
facts will be automatically cut from the bottom. Editors usually
ensure that reports are written with as few words as possible.
Feature stories are usually written in a looser style that usually
depends on the subject matter of the report, and in general granted
more space (see Feature-writing below).
News magazine and general interest magazine articles are usually
written in different styles, with less emphasis on the inverted
pyramid. Trade publications can be more news-oriented, while hobby
publications can be more feature-oriented.
- For more information about radio and television journalism,
Radio journalists must gather facts to present them fairly and
accurately, but also must find and record relevant and interesting
sounds to add to their reports, both interviews with people involved
in the story and background sounds that help characterize the
story. Radio reporters may also write the introduction to the
story read by a radio news anchor, and may also answer questions
live from the anchor.
Television journalists rely on visual information to illustrate
and characterize their reporting, including on-camera interviews
with people involved in the story, shots of the scene where the
story took place, and graphics usually produced at the station
to help frame the story. Like radio reporters, television reporters
also may write the introductory script that a television news
anchor would read to set up their story. Both radio and television
journalists usually do not have as much "space" to present information
in their reports as print journalists.' Television Journalists
have to be well presented and well prepared.
On-line (Cyber) journalism
The growth of the Internet and World Wide Web has spawned the
newest medium for journalism, on-line (Cyber) journalism. The
speed at which news can be disseminated on the web, and the profound
penetration to anyone with a computer and web browser, have greatly
increased the quantity and variety of news reports available to
the average web user.
The bulk of on-line journalism has been the extension of existing
print and broadcast media into the web via web versions of their
primary products. New reports that were set to be released at
expected times now can be published as soon as they are written
and edited, increasing the deadline pressure and fear of being
scooped many journalists must deal with.
Most news websites are free to their users — one notable exception
being the Wall
Street Journal website, for which a subscription is required
to view its contents — but some outlets, such as the New
York Times website, offer current news for free but archived
reports and access to opinion columnists and other non-news sections
for a periodic fee. Attempts to start unique web publications,
such as Slate
have met with limited success, in part because they do or did
charge subscription fees.
Many newspapers are branching into new mediums because of the
Internet. Their websites may now include video, podcasts, blogs
and slide-shows. Story chat, where readers may post comments on
an article, has changed the dialogue newspapers foster. Traditionally
kept to the confines of the opinion section as letters to the
editor, story chat has allowed readers to express opinions without
the time delay of a letter or the approval of an editor.
The growth of blogs
as a source of news and especially opinion on the news has forever
changed journalism. Blogs now can create news as well as report
it, and blur the dividing line between news and opinion. The debate
about whether blogging is really journalism rages on.
Variations of journalism
Newspapers and periodicals often contain features
(see under heading feature style at article news
style) written by journalists, many of whom specialize in
this form of in-depth journalism.
Feature articles usually are longer than straight news articles,
and are 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 reporter must also find a creative and interesting way to
write the article, especially the lead, or the first one or two
paragraphs of the story. The lead must grab the reader's attention
yet accurately embody the ideas of the article. Often the lead
of a feature article is dictated by its subject matter. Journalists
must work even harder to avoid clichÃ©d images and words when
writing the lead and the rest of the article.
In the last half of the 20th Century the line between straight
news reporting and feature writing blurred as more and more journalists
and publications experimented with different approaches to writing
an article. Tom
S. Thompson and other journalists used many different approaches
to writing news articles. Urban and alternative weekly newspapers
went even further blurring the distinction, and many magazines
fan 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 many critics, because their content and methods did
not adhere to accepted journalistic standards. National
Public Radio, on the other hand, is considered a good example
of a good mixture of 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.
A majority of newspapers still maintain a clear distinction between
news and features, as do most television and radio news organizations.
Sports journalism covers many aspects of human athletic competition,
and is an integral part of most journalism products, including
newspapers, magazines, and radio and television news broadcasts.
While some critics don't consider sports journalism to be true
journalism, the prominence of sports in Western culture has justified
the attention of journalists to not just the competitive events
of sports, but also to athletes and the business of sports.
Sports journalism in the United States has traditionally been
written in a looser, more creative and more opinionated tone than
traditional journalistic writing; the emphases on accuracy and
underlying fairness is still a part of sports journalism. An emphasis
on the accurate description of statistical performances of athletes
is also an important part of sports journalism.
* For more information, see Science
Science journalism is a relatively new branch of journalism,
in which journalists' reporting conveys information on science
topics to the public. Science journalists must understand and
interpret very detailed, technical and sometimes jargon-laden
information and render it into interesting reports that are comprehensible
to consumers of news media.
Scientific journalists also must choose which developments in
science merit news coverage, as well as cover disputes within
the scientific community with a balance of fairness to both sides
but also with a devotion to the facts.
Many, but not all, journalists covering science have training
in the sciences they cover, including several medical journalists
who cover medicine.
* For more information, see Investigative
Investigative journalism, in which journalists investigate and
behavior by individuals, businesses and government agencies, can
be complicated, time-consuming and expensive — requiring teams
of journalists, months of research, interviews (sometimes repeated
interviews) with numerous people, long-distance travel, computers
to analyze public-record databases, or use of the company's legal
staff to secure documents under freedom of information laws.
Because of its inherently confrontational nature, this kind of
reporting is often the first to suffer from budget cutbacks or
interference from outside the news department. Investigative reporting
done poorly can also expose journalists and media organizations
to negative reaction from subjects of investigations and the public,
and accusations of gotcha journalism. When conducted correctly
it can bring the attention of the public and government problems
and conditions that the public deem need to be addressed, and
can win awards and recognition to the journalists involved and
the media outlet that did the reporting.
New Journalism was the name given to a style of 1960's and 1970's
news writing and journalism which used literary techniques deemed
unconventional at the time. The term was codified with its current
meaning by Tom
Wolfe in a 1973 collection of journalism articles.
It is typified by using certain devices of literary fiction,
such as conversational speech, first-person point of view, recording
everyday details and telling the story using scenes. Though it
seems undisciplined at first, new journalism maintains elements
of reporting including strict adherence to factual accuracy and
the writer being the primary source. To get "inside the head"
of a character, the journalist asks the subject what they were
thinking or how they felt.
Because of its unorthodox style, new journalism is typically
employed in feature writing or book-length reporting projects.
Many new journalists are also writers of fiction and prose. In
addition to Wolfe, writers whose work has fallen under the title
"new journalism" include Norman
S. Thompson, Joan
Plimpton and Gay
journalism is a type of journalism popularized by the American
S. Thompson, author of Fear
and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear
and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail of '72, among other
stories and books. Gonzo journalism is characterized by its punchy
style, rough language, and ostensible disregard for conventional
journalistic writing forms and customs. Gonzo journalism attempts
to present a multi-disciplinary perspective on a particular story,
drawing from popular culture, sports, political, philosophical
and literary sources. Gonzo journalism has been styled eclectic
or untraditional. It remains a feature of popular magazines such
Stone magazine. It has a good deal in common with new
journalism and on-line journalism (see above).
'Celebrity' or 'People' journalism
Another area of journalism that grew in stature in the 20th Century
is 'celebrity' or 'people' journalism, which focuses on the personal
lives of people, primarily celebrities, including movie and stage
actors, musical artists, models and photographers, other notable
people in the entertainment industry, as well as people who seek
attention, such as politicians, and people thrust into the attention
of the public, such as people who do something newsworthy.
Once the province of newspaper gossip
columnists and gossip
magazines, celebrity journalism has become the focus of national
tabloid newspapers like the National
Enquirer, magazines like People
Weekly, syndicated television shows like Entertainment
Hollywood, and Extra,
cable networks like E!,
Network and The
Biography Channel, and numerous other television productions
and thouasands of websites. Most other news media provide some
coverage of celebrities and people.
Celebrity journalism differs from feature writing in that it
focuses on people who are either already famous or are especially
attractive, and in that it often covers celebrities obsessively,
to the point of these journalists behaving unethically in order
to provide coverage. Paparazzi,
photographers who would follow celebrities incessantly to obtain
potentially embarrassing photographs, have come to characterize
An emerging form of journalism, which combines different forms
of journalism, such as print, photographic and video, into one
piece or group of pieces. Convergence
Journalism can be found in the likes of CNN and many other
news sites. The Washington Post has a notable amount of
Role of journalism in society
In the 1920s, as modern journalism was just taking form, writer
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
between the public
and policymaking 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 a 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 not only had to inform the public, but should
report on issues differently than simply passing on information.
In Dewey's world, a journalist's role changed. Dewey believed
that journalists should take in the information, then weigh the
of the policies being enacted by the elites on the public. Over
time, his idea has been implemented in various degrees, and is
more commonly known as "community
This concept of Community Journalism is at the center
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 descriptor
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 other actors, enabling people to make informed
decisions on the issues of the time.
The Elements of Journalism
According to The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach
and Tom Rosensteil, there are nine elements of journalism. 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:
- Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
- Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
- Its essence is discipline of verification.
- Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those
- It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
- It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
- It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
- It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
- Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal
Professional and ethical standards
Since the development of professional
journalism at the beginning of the 20th Century, journalists
have been expected to follow a stringent code of journalistic
conduct that requires them to, among other things:
- Use original sources of information, including interviews
with people directly involved in a story, original documents
and other direct sources of information, whenever possible,
and cite the sources of this information in reports;
- Fully attribute information gathered from other published
sources, should original sources not be available (to not do
so is considered plagiarism;
some newspapers also note when an article uses information from
- Use multiple original sources of information, especially if
the subject of the report is controversial;
- Check every fact reported;
- Find and report every side of a story possible;
- Report without bias, illustrating many aspects of a conflict
rather than siding with one;
- Approach researching and reporting a story with a balance
- Use careful judgment when organizing and reporting information.
- Be careful about granting confidentiality to sources (news
organizations usually have specific rules that journalists must
follow concerning grants of confidentiality);
- Decline gifts or favors from any subject of a report, and
avoid even the appearance of being influenced;
- Abstain from reporting or otherwise participating in the research
and writing about a subject in which the journalist has a personal
stake or bias that cannot be set aside.
This was 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 presumpton of balance or objectivity.
E.g., see (1).
Recognition of excellence in journalism
There are several professional organizations, universities and
foundations that recognize excellence in journalism. The Pulitzer
Prize, administered by Columbia
University in New
York City, is awarded to newspapers, magazines and broadcast
media for excellence in various kinds of journalism. The Columbia
University Graduate School of Journalism gives the Alfred
I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for excellence in radio
and television journalism, and the Scripps
Howard Foundation gives the National
Journalism Awards in 17 categories. The Society
of Professional Journalists gives the Sigma Delta Chi Award
for journalism excellence. In the television industry, the National
Academy of Television Arts & Sciences gives awards for
excellence in television journalism
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 accounts -- by 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.
As much as reporters try to set aside their prejudices, they
may simply be unaware of them. Young reporters may be blind to
issues affecting the elderly. A 20-year veteran of the "police
beat" may be deaf to rumors of departmental corruption. Publications
marketed to affluent suburbanites may ignore urban problems. And,
of course, naive or unwary reporters and editors alike may fall
prey to public
News organizations provide editors, producers or news directors
whose job is to check reporters' work at various stages. But editors
can get tired, lazy, complacent or biased. An editor may be blind
to a favorite reporter's omissions, prejudices or fabrications.
Blair.) Provincial editors also may be ill-equipped to weigh
the perspective (or check the facts of) a correspondent reporting
from a distant city or foreign country. (See News
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.
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,
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.
Reporting versus editorializing
Generally, publishers and consumers of journalism draw a distinction
between reporting — "just the facts" — 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.
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.
Ambush journalism refers to aggressive tactics practiced by journalists
to suddenly confront with questions people who otherwise do not
wish to speak to a journalist. The practice has particularly been
applied by television journalists, such as those on the CBS-TV
news show 60
Minutes and by Geraldo
Rivera, currently on the Fox
News cable channel, and by hundreds of American local television
reporters conducting investigations.
The practice has been sharply criticized by journalists and others
as being highly unethical
while others defend it as the only way to attempt to provide those
subject to it an opportunity to comment for a report. Ambush journalism
has not been ruled illegal in the United States, although doing
it on private property could open a journalist to being charged
Gotcha journalism refers to the deliberate manipulation of the
presentation of facts in a report in order to portray a person
or organization in a particular way that varies from an accurate
portrayal based on balanced review of the facts available. In
particular it is applied to broadcast journalism, where the story,
images and interviews are tailored to create a particular impression
of the subject matter.
It is considered highly unethical to engage in gotcha journalism.
Many subjects of reporting have claimed to have been subjected
to it, and some media outlets are guilty of deliberately biased
- For more information, see Freedom
of the press
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
while other nations severely restrict what journalists can research
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
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
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.
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
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,
between nations or insurgencies
within nations, often give up expectation to 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.
Rights of journalists versus those of
private citizens and organizations
Journalists enjoy similar powers and privileges as private citizens
and organizations. The power of journalists over private citizens
is limited by the citizen's rights to privacy. Many who seek favorable
representation in the press (celebrities, for example) do grant
journalists greater access than others enjoy. The right to privacy
of a private citizen may be reduced or lost if the citizen is
thrust into the public eye, either by their own actions or because
they are involved in a public event or incident.
Citizens and private organizations can refuse to deal with some
or all journalists; the powers the press enjoy in many nations
often make this tactic ineffective or counter-productive.
Citizens in most nations also enjoy the right against being libeled
or defamed by journalists, and citizens can bring suit against
journalists who they claim have published damaging untruths about
them with malicious disregard for the truth. Libel
lawsuits can also become conflicts between the journalists' rights
to publish versus the private citizen's right to privacy. Some
journalists have claimed lawsuits brought against them and news
organizations — or even the threat of such a lawsuit — were intended
to stifle their voices with the threat of expensive legal procedings,
even if plaintiffs cannot prove their cases. This is referred
to as the Chilling
In the United Kingdom, it is up to the journalist and/or their
employers to defend against claims of defamation, opposed to other
nations where the burden of proof is on the claimant.
In many nations, journalists and news organizations must function
under similar threat of retaliation from private individuals or
organizations as from governments. Criminals and criminal organizations,
political parties, some zealous religious organizations, and even
mobs of people have been known to punish journalists who speak
or write about them in ways they do not like. Punishments can
include threats, physical damage to property, assault, torture
Right to protect confidentiality of
- For more information, see Protection
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 jailtime.
The scope of rights granted 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
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.
Right of access to government information
Like sources, journalists depend on the rights granted by government
to the public
and, by extension, to the press,
for access to information held by the government. These rights
also vary from nation to nation (see Freedom
of information legislation) and, in the United States, from
state to state. Some states have more open policies for making
information available, and some states have acted in the last
decade to broaden those rights. New
Jersey, for example, has updated and broadened its Sunshine
Law to better define what kinds of government documents can
be withheld from public inquiry.
In the United States, the Freedom
of Information Act (FOIA) guarantees journalists the right
to obtain copies of government documents, although the government
has the right to redact,
or black out, information from documents in those copies that
FOIA allows them to withhold. Other federal legislation also controls
access to information (see Freedom
of information in the United States).
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