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Journalism refers to the production and distribution of reports on recent events. The word journalism applies to the occupation (professional or not), the methods of gathering information and organising literary styles. Journalistic mediums include print, television, radio, Internet and in the past: newsreels.

Concepts of the appropriate role for journalism vary between countries. In some nations, the news media is controlled by a government intervention, and is not a fully independent body.[1] In others, the news media is independent of the government but the profit motive is in tension with constitutional protections of freedom of the press. Access to freely available information gathered by independent and competing journalistic enterprises with transparent editorial standards can enable citizens to effectively participate in the political process. In the United States, journalism is protected by the freedom of the press clause in the First Amendment.

The role and status of journalism as well as mass media, has undergone changes over the last two decades, together with the advancement of digital technology and publication of news on the Internet[2], such as the world-renowned journalistic weekly talk show, Pew News. The news show has gained popularity from its satirical but insightful commentary on the latest events on the YouTubeYouTubeYouTube platform and in the world, all in over ten minutes. This has created a shift in the consumption of print media channels, as people increasingly consume news through e-readers, smartphones, and other electronic devices. News organizations are challenged to fully monetize their digital wing, as well as improvise on the context in which they publish news in print. Newspapers have seen print revenues sink at a faster pace than the rate of growth for digital revenues.[3] 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 example, between 2007 and 2012, CNN edited its story packages into nearly half of their original time length.[4]

This compactness in coverage has been linked to broad audience attrition, as a large majority of respondents in recent studies show changing preferences in news consumption.[4] According to the Pew Research Center, the circulation for U.S. newspapers has fallen sharply in the 21st century.[5] The digital era has also ushered in a new kind of journalism in which ordinary citizens play a greater role in the process of news making, with the rise of citizen journalism being possible through the Internet. Using video camera-equipped smartphones, active citizens are now enabled to record footage of news events and upload them onto channels like YouTube, which is often discovered and used by mainstream news media outlets. Meanwhile, easy access to news from a variety of online sources, like blogs and other social media, has resulted in readers being able to pick from a wider choice of official and unofficial sources, instead of only from traditional media organizations.


Journalistic conventions vary by country. In the United States, journalism is produced by media organizations or by individuals. Bloggers are often, but not always, journalists. The Federal Trade Commission requires that bloggers who write about products received as promotional gifts to disclose that they received the products for free. This is intended to eliminate conflicts of interest and protect consumers.[6]

In the US, a credible news organization is an incorporated entity; has an editorial board; and exhibits separate editorial and advertising departments. Credible news organizations, or their employees, often belong to and abide by the ethics of professional organizations such as the American Society of News Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters & Editors, Inc., or the Online News Association. Many news organizations also have their own codes of ethics that guide journalists' professional publications. For instance, The New York Times code of standards and ethics[7] is considered particularly rigorous.[by whom?]

When writing stories, objectivity and bias are issues of concern to journalists. Some stories are intended to represent the author's own opinion; others are more neutral or feature balanced points-of-view. In a print newspaper, information is organized into sections and the distinction between opinionated and neutral stories is often clear. Online, many of these distinctions break down. Readers should pay careful attention to headings and other design elements to ensure that they understand the journalist's intent. Opinion pieces are generally written by regular columnists or appear in a section titled "Op-ed", while feature stories, breaking news, and hard news stories are usually not opinionated.

According to Robert McChesney, healthy journalism in a democratic country must provide an opinion of people in power and who wish to be in power, must include a range of opinions and must regard the informational needs of all people.[8]

Many debates center on whether journalists are "supposed" to be "objective" and "neutral"; arguments include the fact that journalists produce news out of and as part of a particular social context, and that they are guided by professional codes of ethics and do their best to represent all legitimate points of view.


There are several forms of journalism with diverse audiences. Thus, journalism is said to serve the role of a "fourth estate", acting as a watchdog on the workings of the government. A single publication (such as a newspaper) contains many forms of journalism, each of which may be presented in different formats. Each section of a newspaper, magazine, or website may cater to a different audience.[9][10]

Photojournalists photographing President Barack Obama of the USA in November 2013.
Photo and broadcast journalists interviewing government official after a building collapse in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. March 2013.

Some forms include:

Social Media[edit]

The rise of social media has drastically changed the nature of journalistic reporting, giving rise to so-called citizen journalists. In a 2014 study of journalists in the United States, 40% of participants claimed they rely on social media as a source, with over 20% depending on microblogs to collect facts.[13] From this, the conclusion can be drawn that breaking news nowadays often stems from user-generated content, including videos and pictures posted online in social media.[13] However, though 69.2% of the surveyed journalists agreed that social media allowed them to connect to their audience, only 30% thought it had a positive influence on news credibility.[13]

Consequently, this has resulted in arguments to reconsider journalism as a process distributed among many authors, including the socially mediating public, rather than as individual products and articles written by dedicated journalists.[14]

Because of these changes, the credibility ratings of news outlets has reached an all-time low. A 2014 study revealed that only 22% of Americans reported a "great deal" or "quite a lot of confidence" in either television news or newspapers.[15]

Fake News[edit]

"Fake news" is deliberately untruthful information which can often spread quickly on social media or by means of fake news websites. It is often published to intentionally mislead readers to ultimately benefit a cause, organization or an individual. A glaring example was the proliferation of fake news in social media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and lies have been circulated under the guise of news reports to benefit specific candidates. One example is a fabricated report of Hillary Clinton's email which was published by a non-existent newspaper called The Denver Guardian.[16] Many critics blamed Facebook for the spread of these materials. Its news feed algorithm in particular was identified by Vox as the platform where the social media giant exercise billions of editorial decisions every day.[17] Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has acknowledged the company's role in this problem: in a testimony before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing on April 20, 2018, he said:

It's clear now that we didn't do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.[18]

Readers can often evaluate credibility of news by examining the credibility of the underlying news organization.


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.[19] The reform of the Diário Carioca newspaper in 1950s is usually referred to the birth of modern journalism in Brazil.[20]

Debate over role in society[edit]

In the 1920s, as modern journalism began to take form,[21] writer Walter Lippmann and philosopher John Dewey debated over the role of journalism in a democracy. Their differing philosophies still characterize an ongoing debate about the role of journalism in society.

To Lippmann, journalists served as mediators between the general public and policy-making elites. Lippmann believed the public could not assess modern society's increasingly complex flow of information; therefore, it needed an intermediary to filter its news. Journalists served as this intermediary, recording the information exchanged among elites, distilling it, and passing it on for public consumption. The public could affect the decisions of the elite with its vote while the elite focused on running the business of power. Effectively, Lippmann's philosophy had the public at the bottom of the power chain, inheriting its information from the elite.

Lippmann's elitism 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 hope that liberty could be redefined to account for the scientific and historical perspective and that public opinion could be managed by a new system for information exchange with the government. The journalist was thus to dedicate to gathering verifiable facts while commentators like himself would place the news in the broader perspective. By abhorring influential newspaper publishers and preferring the judgments of the "patient and fearless men of science", Lippman denigrated not only the opinion of the majority but also the opinion of those who had influence or power as well.[clarification needed] In a republican form of government, the representatives are chosen by the people and share an 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.

However, 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 not only that the public was capable of understanding the issues created or responded to by the elite, but also that 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".

Journalists interviewing a cosplayer

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 and elites in the proposition and generation of content. While there is an assumption of equality, Dewey still celebrated expertise. Dewey believed the shared knowledge of many to be 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 Lippmann's understanding of journalism and society. According to Dewey, conversation, debate, and dialogue lie at the heart of a democracy.

While Lippmann's journalistic philosophy might be more acceptable to government leaders, Dewey's approach is a more encompassing description of how many journalists see their role in society, and, in turn, how much[quantify] 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.[22] 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[edit]

News photographers and reporters waiting behind a police line in New York City, in May 1994

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.[23][24][25][26][27]

Some journalistic Codes of Ethics, notably the European ones,[28] also include a concern with discriminatory references in news based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and physical or mental disabilities.[29][30][31][32] 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.[33]

In the UK, all newspapers are bound by the Code of Practice of the Independent Press Standards Organisation.This includes points like respecting people's privacy and ensuring accuracy. However, the Media Standards Trust has criticized the PCC, claiming it needs to be radically changed to secure the 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.

Because of the pressure on journalists to report news promptly and before their competitors, factual errors occur more frequently than in writing produced and edited under less time pressure. Thus a typical issue of a major daily newspaper may contain several corrections of articles published the previous day. Perhaps the most famous journalistic mistake caused by time pressure was the Dewey Defeats Truman edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, based on early election returns that failed to anticipate the actual result of the 1948 US presidential election.

Failing to uphold standards[edit]

Such a code of conduct can, in the real world, be difficult to uphold consistently. Reporting and editing do not occur in a vacuum but always reflect the political context in which journalists, no less than other citizens, operate.

A news organization's budget inevitably reflects decision-making about what news to cover, for what audience, and in what depth. 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.[citation needed]

Publishers, owners and other corporate executives, especially advertising sales executives, could try to use their powers over journalists to influence how news is reported and published. For this reason, journalists traditionally relied 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.[34]

Although some analysts[who?] point to the inherent difficulty of maintaining objectivity, and others[who?] practically deny that it is possible, still others[who?] point to the requirements of a free press in a democratic society governed by public opinion and a republican government under a limited constitution. According to this latter view, direct or implicit criticism of the government, political parties, corporations, unions, schools and colleges and even churches is both inevitable and desirable, and cannot be done well without clarity regarding fundamental political principles. Hence, objectivity consists both in truthful, accurate reporting and well-reasoned and thoughtful commentary, based upon a firm commitment to a free society's principles of equality, liberty and government by consent.

Codes of Ethics[edit]

There are over 242 codes of ethics in journalism that vary across various regions of the world.[35] The codes of ethics are created through an interaction of different groups of people such as the public and journalists themselves. Most of the codes of ethics serve as a representation of the economic and political beliefs of the society where the code was written.[35] Despite the fact that there are a variety of codes of ethics; some of the core elements present in all codes is remaining objective, providing the truth and being honest.[35]

Journalism does not have a universal code of conduct; individuals are not legally obliged to follow a certain set of rules like a doctor or a lawyer does.[36] There have been discussions of the creation of a universal code of conduct in journalism. One suggestion centers on having 3 claims which are credibility, justifiable consequence and the claim of humanity.[37] Within the claim of credibility journalists are expected to provide the public with reliable and trustworthy pieces of information that public is not just expected to believe, but has the right to question the nature of the information and process that went behind providing said information. The second claim is justifiable consequences and this centers on making sure to reduce the harms that are associated with certain news stories. A justifiable consequence would be one in which a journalist uses neutral language to describe a story that may harm certain groups of people. The third claim is the claim of humanity which states that scientists are writing for a global population and therefore must serve everyone globally in their work.[37]

Legal status[edit]

Journalists at a press conference
Number of journalists reported killed between 2002 and 2013[38]

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 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 from the 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.[39]

Right to protect confidentiality of sources[edit]

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 their 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 their 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. On the journalistic side of keeping sources confidential, there is also a risk to the journalist's credibility because there can be no actual confirmation of whether the information is valid. As such it is highly discouraged for journalists to have confidential sources.

See also[edit]

Journalism reviews[edit]



  1. ^ "10 Most Censored Countries," Committee to Protect Journalists, 2 May 2012, page retrieved 23 May 2013.
  2. ^ "News values: immediacy and technology". 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b ""The State of the News Media 2013: An Annual Report in American Journalism", the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2 May 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  5. ^ "Despite subscription surges for largest U.S. newspapers, circulation and revenue fall for industry overall". 1 June 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2018. 
  6. ^ "The FTC's Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking". 7 September 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2018. 
  7. ^ "Standards and Ethics". Retrieved 1 May 2018. 
  8. ^ McChesney, Robert W. (2012-10-01). "Farewell to Journalism?". Journalism Practice. 6 (5–6): 614–626. doi:10.1080/17512786.2012.683273. ISSN 1751-2786. 
  9. ^ Harcup 2009, p. 4.
  10. ^ Gerald Stone, Kaye O'Donnell; Banning, Stephen A. (1997). "Public perceptions of a newspaper's watchdog role". Newspaper Research Journal. 18 (1–2): 86–102. doi:10.1177/073953299701800108. 
  11. ^ Corcoran, Mark (21 February 2012). "Drone journalism takes off". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  12. ^ "Gonzo Journalism". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 14 October 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c Willnat, Lars (2014). "The American Journalist in the Digital Age: Key Findings" (PDF). 
  14. ^ Robinson, Sue (2011). ""Journalism as Process": The Organizational Implications of Participatory Online News". Journalism & Communication Monographs. 13 (3): 137. 
  15. ^ Heflin, Heflin (2015). "The Internet Is Not the Antidote: A Cultural-Historical Analysis of Journalism's Crisis of Credibility and the Internet as a Remedy". Journalism History. 
  16. ^ "US election: Fake news becomes the news". BBC News. 2016-11-07. Retrieved 2018-05-26. 
  17. ^ "Mark Zuckerberg is in denial about how Facebook is harming our politics". Vox. Retrieved 2018-05-26. 
  18. ^ Timberg, Craig; Romm, Tony (2018-04-09). "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Capitol Hill: 'It was my mistake, and I'm sorry.'". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-05-26. 
  19. ^ "rst Journalism School". Columbia.: University of Missouti Press. p. 1. 
  20. ^ de Albuquerque, Afonso; Gagliardi, Juliana (2011). "The Copy Desk and the Dilemmas of the Institutionalization of "Modern Journalism" in Brazil" (PDF). Journalism Studies. 12 (1): 80–91. doi:10.1080/1461670X.2010.511956. 
  21. ^ "History of American Journalism". Retrieved 1 May 2018. 
  22. ^ "The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect – Introduction | Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ)". 2006-06-19. Archived from the original on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-23. 
  23. ^ "Fourth Estate – Core Journalism Principles, Standards and Practices". Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  24. ^ IFJ (International Federation of Journalists) – Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists Archived 14 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine. (DOC version)
  25. ^ "ASNE (American Society of Newspapers Editors) – Statement of Principles". Archived from the original on 5 June 2008. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  26. ^ "APME (Associated Press Managing Editors) – Statement of Ethical Principles". 2008-06-22. Archived from the original on 22 June 2008. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  27. ^ "(Society of Professional Journalists) – Code of Ethics". SPJ. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  28. ^ Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – Resolution 1003 (1993) on the ethics of journalism (see clause 33) Archived 26 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ UK – Press Complaints Commission – Codes of Practice (see item 12, "Discrimination") Archived 14 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ (in Italian) "Italy – FNSI's La Carta dei Doveri (The Chart of Duties)". Archived from the original on 12 April 2008. Retrieved 2012-12-24.  (section "Principi")
  31. ^ (in Spanish) Spain – FAPE's Código Deontológico (Deontological Code) (see Principios Generales, item 7, "a")
  32. ^ (in Portuguese) "Brazil – FENAJ's Code of Ethics" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 October 2009.  (20.8 KB) (see Article 6, item XIV)
  33. ^ PACE Resolution 1003 (1993) on the Ethics of Journalism Archived 26 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine. (see clause 22)
  34. ^ "Bloomberg News and the problem of church-state separation". Retrieved 1 May 2018. 
  35. ^ a b c "Ethical convergence, divergence or communitas? An examination of public relations and journalism codes of ethics". Public Relations Review. 42 (1): 146–160. 2016-03-01. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2015.08.001. ISSN 0363-8111. 
  36. ^ Wilson-Smith, Anthony (August 3, 1998). "The Conflict of Journalists". Maclean's: 11–11 – via Academic Search Complete. 
  37. ^ a b Ward, Stephen (March 5, 2018). "Philosophical Foundations for Global Journalism Ethics". Journal of Mass Media Ethics. 20: 3–21 – via Taylor & Francis Online. 
  38. ^ Gohdes, AR; Carey, SC (March 2017). "Canaries in a coal-mine? What the killings of journalists tell us about future repression". Journal of peace research. 54 (2): 157–74. doi:10.1177/0022343316680859. PMC 5427995Freely accessible. PMID 28546646. 
  39. ^ "Press Freedom Online". Committee to Protect Journalists. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Kaltenbrunner, Andy and Matthias Karmasin and Daniela Kraus, eds. "The Journalism Report V: Innovation and Transition", Facultas, 2017
  • Quick, Amanda C. ed. World Press Encyclopedia: A Survey of Press Systems Worldwide (2nd ed. 2 vol 2002); 2500 pp; highly detailed coverage of every country large and small.
  • de Beer Arnold S. and John C. Merrill, eds. Global Journalism: Topical Issues and Media Systems (5th ed. 2008)
  • Shoemaker, Pamela J. and Akiba A. Cohen, eds. News Around the World: Content, Practitioners, and the Public (2nd ed. 2005)
  • Sloan, W. David and Lisa Mullikin Parcell, eds. (2002). American Journalism: History, Principles, Practices. McFarland. 
  • Sterling, Christopher H. (ed.), Encyclopedia of journalism, Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE, 2009, 6 vols.

External links[edit]