Journalism is the activity, or product, of journalists or others engaged in the preparation of written, visual, or audio material intended for dissemination through public media with reference to factual, ongoing events of public concern. It is intended to inform society about itself and to make events public that would otherwise remain private.
In modern society, news media are the chief purveyor of information and opinion about public affairs. Journalism, however, is not to be confused with the news media or the news itself. In some nations, the news media is government-controlled and not an independent body that operates within journalistic frameworks. In democratic societies, access to information can play a key role in a system of checks and balances designed to limit the overreach of powers concentrated in governments, businesses and other entities and individuals. Access to verifiable information gathered by independent media sources adhering to journalistic standards can also provide ordinary citizens with the tools they need to participate in the political process.
The role and status of journalism, along with mass media, have undergone profound changes resulting from the publication of news on the Internet. This has created a shift away from print media consumption as people increasingly consume news on e-readers, smartphones, and other electronic devices, challenging news organizations to fully monetize digital news. Notably, in the American media landscape, newsrooms have reduced their staff and coverage as traditional media channels such as television grapple with declining audiences; for instance, at CNN, once known for its global, in-depth coverage, produced story packages were cut nearly in half from 2007 to 2012. This reduced coverage has been linked to broad audience attrition, as one-third of surveyed respondents for "The State of the News Media 2013" study published by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism say they have abandoned a news outlet because it no longer provided the news and information they expected. The digital era has also ushered in a new kind of journalism in which ordinary citizens play a greater role in the capture of news while commanding greater control over its consumption. Using their video camera-equipped smartphones, people are providing news content by recording footage that they post to YouTube, which are then discovered and often used by mainstream news outlets. Meanwhile, easy access to news from a variety of online sources means that consumers can bypass the news agenda of traditional media organizations.
Definition and forms
There are several different forms of journalism, all with different intended audiences. In modern society, "prestige" journalism is said to serve the role of a "fourth estate", acting as watchdogs on the workings of government. Other forms of journalism feature different formats and cater to different intended audiences.
Some forms include:
- Advocacy journalism – writing to advocate particular viewpoints or influence the opinions of the audience.
- Broadcast journalism – writing or speaking which is intended to be distributed by radio or television broadcasting, rather than only in written form for readers.
- Drone journalism – use of drones to capture journalistic footage.
- Gonzo journalism – first championed by journalist Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism is a "highly personal style of reporting".
- Investigative journalism – writing which seeks to add extra information to explain, or better describe the people and events of a particular topic.
- Photojournalism – storytelling through images.
- Tabloid journalism – writing which uses opinionated or wild claims.
- Yellow journalism (or sensationalism) – writing which emphasizes exaggerated claims or rumors.
The recent rise of social media has resulted in arguments to reconsider journalism as a process rather than as a particular kind of news product. In this perspective, journalism is participatory, a process distributed among multiple authors and involving journalists as well as the socially mediating public.
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. The reform of the Diário Carioca newspaper in the 1950s is usually referred to as the birth of modern journalism in Brazil.
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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. 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.
Lippmann's elitism has had consequences that he came to deplore. An apostle of historicism and scientism, Lippmann did not merely hold that democratic government was a problematic exercise, but regarded all political communities, of whatever stripe, as needing guidance from a transcendent partisanship for accurate information and dispassionate judgment. In "Liberty and the News" (1919) and "Public Opinion" (1921) Lippmann expressed the hope that liberty could be redefined to take account of the scientific and historical perspective and that public opinion could be managed by a system of intelligence in and out of government. Thus the liberty of the journalist was to be dedicated to gathering verifiable facts while commentators like himself would place the news in the broader perspective. Lippmann deplored the influence of powerful newspaper publishers and preferred the judgments of the "patient and fearless men of science." In so doing, he did not merely denigrate the opinion of the majority but also of those who had influence or power as well. In a republican form of government, the representatives are chosen by the people and share with them adherence to the fundamental principles and political institutions of the polity. Lippmann's quarrel was with those very principles and institutions, for they are the product of the pre-scientific and pre-historical viewpoint and what for him was a groundless natural rights political philosophy.
But Lippmann turned against what he called the "collectivism" of the Progressive movement he encouraged with its de-emphasis on the foundations of American politics and government and ultimately wrote a work, "The Public Philosophy" (1955), which came very close to a return to the principles of the American founders.
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.
Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel propose several guidelines for journalists in their book The Elements of Journalism. Because journalism's first loyalty is to the citizenry, journalists are obliged to tell the truth and must serve as an independent monitor of powerful individuals and institutions within society. The essence of journalism is to provide citizens with reliable information through the discipline of verification.
Professional and ethical standards
While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of — truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability — as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.
Some journalistic Codes of Ethics, notably the European ones, also include a concern with discriminatory references in news based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and physical or mental disabilities. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved in 1993 Resolution 1003 on the Ethics of Journalism which recommends journalists to respect the presumption of innocence, in particular in cases that are still sub judice.
In the UK, all newspapers are bound by the Code of Practice of the Press Complaints Commission.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.
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.
Objective journalism is the desire and aim of every society and media house. However, such noble aspiration is beclouded and usurped by sycophancy and sycophantic reporting. This development denies the public the right to true information and invariably leads to loss of reputation by the media house. A research study by Nnamdi Azikiwe University discusses the reason for its unbridled spread and its effects on the public.
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. 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 study of journalism in online video found that although most news videos adhere to traditional production practices (e.g. editing and audio quality), they tended to use more relaxed standards for content (e.g., use of sources, fairness). Videos using these more relaxed standards received more views.
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 Journal 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.
Governments have widely varying policies and practices towards journalists, which control what they can research and write, and what press organizations can publish. Some governments guarantee the freedom of the press; while other nations severely restrict what journalists can research and/or publish.
Journalists in many nations have some privileges that members of the general public do not; 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.
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. Many governments around the world target journalists for intimidation, harassment, and violence because of the nature of their work.
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 confidential informant private even when demanded by police or prosecutors; withholding sources can land journalists in contempt of court, or in jail.
In the United States, there is no right to protect sources in a federal court. 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. State courts provide varying degrees of such protection. Journalists who refuse to testify even when ordered to can be found in contempt of court and fined or jailed.
- Lists of journalists
- Citizen Journalism
- Creative nonfiction
- Hallin's spheres
- History of American newspapers
- History of journalism
- Journalism education and Journalism school
- Journalism ethics and standards
- Journalism genres
- Non-profit journalism
- Objectivity (journalism)
- Reporters without borders
- American Journalism Review
- Columbia Journalism Review
- Health News Review
- Ryerson Review of Journalism
- Online Journalism Review
- Harcup 2009, p. 3.
- "10 Most Censored Countries," Committee to Protect Journalists, May 2, 2012, page retrieved May 23, 2013.
- "News values: immediacy and technology". Owenspencer-thomas.com.
- "The State of the News Media 2013: An Annual Report in American Journalism," the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, May 2, 2012. Page retrieved May 23, 2013.
- "The State of the News Media 2013: An Annual Report in American Journalism," the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, May 2, 2012. Page retrieved May 23, 2013.
- "YouTube & News: A New Kind of Visual News," the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, July 16, 2012. Page retrieved May 23, 2013.
- Harcup 2009, p. 4.
- Corcoran, Mark (21 February 2012). "Drone journalism takes off". ABC News. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
- "Gonzo Journalism". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
- Robinson, Sue (2011). ""Journalism as Process": The Organizational Implications of Participatory Online News.". Journalism & Communication Monographs 13 (3): 137.
- "rst Journalism School". Columbia.: University of Missouti Press. p. 1.
- "THE COPY DESK AND THE DILEMMAS OF THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF ‘‘MODERN JOURNALISM’’ IN BRAZIL". Journalism Studies 12 (1). 2011. doi:10.1080/1461670X.2010.511956.
- June 19, 2006 (2006-06-19). "The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect - Introduction | Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ)". Journalism.org. Retrieved 2013-02-23.
- IFJ (International Federation of Journalists) - Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists (DOC version)
- "ASNE (American Society of Newspapers Editors) - Statement of Principles". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
- "APME (Associated Press Managing Editors) - Statement of Ethical Principles". Web.archive.org. 2008-06-22. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
- "(Society of Professional Journalists) - Code of Ethics". SPJ. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
- Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe - Resolution 1003 (1993) on the ethics of journalism (see clause 33)
- UK - Press Complaints Commission - Codes of Practice (see item 12, "Discrimination")
- (Italian) Italy - FNSI's La Carta dei Doveri (The Chart of Duties) (section "Principi")
- (Spanish) Spain - FAPE's Código Deontológico (Deontological Code) (see Principios Generales, item 7, "a")
- (Portuguese) PDF (20.8 KB) (see Article 6, item XIV)
- PACE Resolution 1003 (1993) on the Ethics of Journalism (see clause 22)
- "Sycophancy and Objective Journalism". Advances in Applied Sociology (Scientific Research) 2 (3): 159–166. Sep 2012. ISSN 2165-4328.
- Peer, Limor; Thomas B. Ksiazek (2011). "YouTube and the Challenge to Journalism". Journalism Studies 12 (1): 45.
- "Press Freedom Online". Committee to Protect Journalists.
- Harcup, Tony (2009), Journalism: Principles and Practice, Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, ISBN 978-1847872500, OCLC 280437077
- Campbell, W. Joseph, Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism, Berkeley : University of California Press, 2010. ISBN 9780520262096
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