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IntroductionEdit

Journalism is a discipline of collecting, analyzing, verifying, and presenting news regarding current events, trends, issues and people. Those who practice journalism are known as journalists.

Journalism is sometimes described as the "first draft of history," because journalists often record important events, producing news articles on short deadlines. While under pressure to be first with their stories, news media organizations usually edit and proofread their reports prior to publication, adhering to each organization's standards of accuracy, quality and style. Many news organizations claim proud traditions of holding government officials and institutions accountable to the public, while media critics have raised questions about holding the press itself accountable.

ReportingEdit

Journalism has as its main activity the reporting of events — stating who, what, when, where, why and how, and explaining the significance and effect of events or trends. Journalism exists in a number of media: newspapers, television, radio, magazines and, most recently, the World Wide Web through the Internet.

The subject matter of journalism can be anything and everything, 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, education, sports, hobbies and recreation, lifestyles, clothing, food, pets, sex and relationships. Journalists can report for general interest news outlets such as newspapers, news magazines and broadcast sources; general circulation specialty publications such as 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 are almost always edited, in the newsroom, the office space 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.

Variations of journalismEdit

Feature journalismEdit

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 clichéd 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 Wolf, Gay Talese, Hunter 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.

Investigative journalismEdit

* For more information, see Investigative reporting.

Investigative journalism, in which journalists investigate and expose unethical, immoral and illegal 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.

Role of journalism in society Edit

In the 1920's, 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 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, bureacrats, 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 throughly 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 consequences 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 journalism."

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 and 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.

According to The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosensteil, there are nine elements of journalim. 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 maintina an independence from those they cover. 5. It must serve as an independent montior 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.

Professional and ethical standardsEdit

Also see 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 previous reports);
  • 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 between objectivity and skepticism.
  • 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).

Legal status Edit

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 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 publlic, 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. 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 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.


External linksEdit

TemplateEdit

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