What is journalism?
Journalism is a form of writing that tells people about things that really happened but about which people might not have known already. Journalism is the practice of investigating and reporting events, issues and trends to mass audiences of print, broadcast and online media like newspapers, magazines and books, radio and television stations and networks, blogs and social and mobile media. The product so generated is called Journalism.
History of journalism
The earliest known journalistic product was a news sheet circulated in ancient Rome called the ACTA DIURNA, dated before 59 BCE. The Acta Diurna recorded important daily events such as public speeches. It was published daily and hung in prominent places. In China during the Tang Dynasty a court circular called a bao, or ‘report’ was issued to government officials. The first regularly published newspapers appeared in German cities and in Antwerp around 1609.
Journalism in the 20th century was marked by a growing sense of professionalism. There were four important factors in this trend namely-1.The increasing organization of working journalists 2.Specialised education for journalism 3.A growing literature dealing with the history, problems and techniques of mass communication 4.An increasing sense of social responsibility on the part of journalists.
Forms of journalism
There are many forms of journalism which have diverse audiences. So journalism is said to serve the role of a ‘fourth estate’ acting as a watchdog on the workings of the government. A single publication like 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.
Forms of journalism
a. Breaking news:Telling about an event as it happens.
b. Feature stories: A detailed look at something interesting that’s not breaking news.
c. Enterprise or Investigative stories: Stories that uncover information that few people knew.
a. Editorials: Unsigned articles that express an opinion of a publication.
b. Columns: Signed articles that express the writer’s reporting and his conclusions.
c. Reviews: Such as a concert, restaurant or movie review.
Online journalism can come in these forms as well:-
a. Blogs: Online diaries kept by individuals or small groups.
b. Discussion boards: Online question and answer pages where anyone can participate.
c. Wikis: Articles that any reader can add to or change.
The best journalism is easy to read and sounds like a nice, smart person telling you something interesting.
Some types of journalism include:-
1.Access journalism—These are journalists who self-censor and cease voluntarily to speak about issues that may embarrass powerful politicians, businesspersons, hosts or guests.
2.Advocacy journalism—This is the kind of journalism whose writing is used to advocate particular viewpoints or influence the opinions of the audience.
3.Broadcast journalism-–This is the written or spoken journalism for radio or television.
4.Citizen journalism or participatory journalism—It is also known as collaborative media or participatory. It is based on public citizens playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. The underlying principle of citizen journalism is that ordinary people and not professional journalists can be the main creators and distributors of news. This form of journalism has become more feasible by the development of various online platforms of internet.
5.Data journalism—It is the practice of finding stories in numbers and using numbers to tell stories. Data journalists use data to support their reporting. They report about uses and misuses of data. The US news organization ProPublica is known as a pioneer of data journalism.
6.Drone journalism—It’s the use of drones to capture journalistic footage.
7.Gonzo journalism—It was first initiated by Hunter S. Thompson and is a highly personal style of reporting.
8.Interactive journalism—It is a type of journalism that is presented on the web.
9.Investigative journalism—It is the in-depth reporting that talks and uncovers about social problems.
10.Sensor journalism—It is the sort of journalism that uses sensors to support journalistic inquiry.
11.Tabloid journalism—It is the type of writing that is light-hearted and entertaining. It is but considered less legitimate than mainstream journalism.
12.Yellow journalism(sensationalism)—It is the type of writing which stresses exaggerated claims or rumors.
13.Global journalism—It is the kind of journalism that takes into itself a global outlook focusing on intercontinental issues.
People who write journalism are called journalists. They gather such news and package it for mass dissemination. They might work at newspaper offices, magazines, websites or for TV or radio stations. The most important characteristic shared by journalists is their curiosity. Good journalists love to read and want to know about the world. They want to find out as much as they can about the world around them. This field includes writing, editing, design and photography. The journalists have idea in mind of informing the citizenry and for this purpose they cover the individuals, the organizations, institutions, governments and businesses as well as cultural aspects of society like arts and entertainment. News media are the main purveyors of information and opinion about public affairs.
What does a journalist do?
Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press and that cannot be limited without being lost—Thomas Jefferson
Journalism informs the public of important news and information. Journalists work for newspapers or magazines, write behind-the-scenes for broadcast networks, work on the internet or go on location to gather information on events. At the basic level journalists investigate, collect and present information. Journalists do this for newspapers and magazines but also via radio and television broadcasts and online through websites, blogs, podcasts and other digital platforms.
The main intention of journalists is to provide their readers and audiences with accurate, reliable and complete information they need to function in society. There are many different jobs in journalism. For eg, a news journalist might be involved in:—–
Researching stories-Newspapers, magazines and web stories require research before writing. All writers have to conduct research and gather information before they can start writing. Journalists use three tools to gather information for stories-1.Observation 2.Interview 3.Background research
Writing hard news and feature stories-Hard news stories are short, very timely and focus on telling you what’s just happened starting with the most important thing first. Feature stories on the other hand are not as timely yet need a topical news peg. Newspaper, web feature and magazine articles are more in-depth and less rigidly structured. They might be interviews, travel reports, how-to articles, profiles, tear jerkers.
Social media and journalism
The rise of social media has changed the nature of journalistic reporting quite well giving rise to so-called Citizen journalists. In a 2014 study of journalists in the United States 40% of people said they rely on social media as a source for facts while 20% depended on microblogs. The breaking news nowadays comes from user-generated content including videos and pictures which are posted online in social media.
The digital age
The role and status of journalism and mass media has gone through lot of changes in the last two decades together with the advancement of digital technology and publication of news on the internet. It has created a shift in the consumption of news from print media channels as people consume news through e-readers, smartphones and other electronic devices. Now news organizations are challenged to fully monetize their digital wing.
Professional and ethical standards
The common codes of professional and ethical standards of journalism are-Truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstein provide many guidelines in their book ‘The elements of Journalism. They think that journalist’s first loyalty is to the citizenry and that journalists are obliged to tell the truth and must do the role of powerful individuals and institutions in the society. So the essence of journalism is to provide citizens with reliable information.
Codes of ethics
There are over 242 codes of ethics in journalism that vary around various regions of the world. The codes of ethics are made by an interaction of different groups of people like the public and journalists. Most of the codes of ethics serve as a representation of the political and economic beliefs of the society where they have been written.
Journalism does not have a universal code of conduct and individuals are not required to legally abide by a certain set of rules like a doctor or a lawyer.
What’s so different in journalism from other forms of communication?
The whole of the online world is cluttered or we can say full of communication. The majority of this communication is not news and specially not journalism. About 70% of email traffic is spam according to a web security company called Symantec. In 2012 there were an average of 175 million tweets each day. But out of that almost 99% was pointless babble.
Purpose of journalism
The purpose of journalism written by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in the book, ‘Elements of journalism’ is not defined by technology nor by journalists or the techniques that they employ. The principles and purpose of journalism are defined by a basic thing, the function news plays in the lives of people. And news is that part of communication that keeps us informed of the changing events, news, and happenings in the world outside. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, communities, societies and the governments.
Elements of journalism
- Journalism’s first obligation is towards truth-People can make good decisions when they have reliable, accurate facts put together in a meaningful context. Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense but in more of a down-to-earth way. Journalism seeks a practical and functional form of truth. The journalistic truth is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. Then journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning after doing further investigation. The journalists should be completely transparent about sources and methods so that audiences can make their own assessment of the information. In journalism ‘getting it right’ is the foundation upon which everything else is built like context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis, debate. As citizens come across greater flow of data they have more need for suppliers of information dedicated to finding and verifying the news and putting it in context.
- It’s first loyalty is to citizens-The publisher of journalistic content whether it is a media corporation answering to advertisers or a blogger with his own personal beliefs and opinions must have and show an ultimate allegiance to citizens. They must surely do their best to put the public interest and the truth above their self-interest and assumptions.
- It’s essence is a discipline of verification-Journalists should rely on a professional discipline for verifying information. There is no standardized code as such but every journalist uses certain methods to assess and test information to get it right and validable. Being impartial or neutral is not a core principle of journalism and the journalist cannot be totally objective but the journalistic methods surely are. Journalists are needed to be free of bias. They should have a consistent method of testing information that which has a transparent approach. And their personal or cultural biases should not undermine the accuracy of their work.
- Independence is a cornerstone of reliability. It means not becoming seduced by sources, intimidated by power or compromised by self-interest. The journalists must have an independent spirit and open-mindedness with intellectual curiosity which will help the journalist to see beyond his or her class or economic status, race, ethnicity, religion, gender or ego. Journalistic independence is not neutrality. Journalists must not stray towards arrogance, elitism, isolation or nihilism.
- Journalism must serve as an independent monitor of power-Journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as a watchdog over those whose power and position affect citizens the most. It may also offer voice to the voiceless. Being an independent monitor of power means watching over the few powerful people in society on the behalf of the many to guard against tyranny. The role of the journalist is to come out of the frame of a passive stenographer to a more curious observer who would search out and discover credit-worthy news. Journalists have an obligation to protect the watchdog freedom by not demeaning it in frivolous use or exploiting it for commercial gain.
- Journalism must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise-The news media are common carriers of public discussion. And having this responsibility forms a basis for some special privileges which journalists, the providers of news and information receive from democratic societies. These privileges include subsidies for distribution or research and development which includes lower postal rates for print, use of public spectrum by broadcasters, development and management of the internet)to laws protecting content and free speech(copyright, libel and shield laws). Journalism should also try to represent fairly varied viewpoints and interests in society and to place them in context rather than highlighting only the conflicting debatable points. Journalism is more than providing an outlet for discussion or adding one’s voice to the conversation. It carries a responsibility to improve the quality of debate by giving verified information and intellectual rigor.
- Journalism must strive to keep the important stay interesting and relevant-Journalism is storytelling with a purpose. It should do more than accumulate an audience. Part of the journalist’s responsibility is providing information in a way that people will be inclined to listen. So journalists must strive to make the important stay interesting and relevant.
- Journalism must keep the news comprehensive and proportional-Journalism can be said to be a modern cartography. It creates a map for citizens to navigate the society. It’s value depends on completeness and proportionality where the significant news is given more prominence than the trivial. Having news in proportion is a cornerstone of truthfulness. The inflation of events for sensation, neglecting others, stereotyping contribute to make a non-reliable map.
- The practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience-A person in journalism whether writing professionally for a news organization or as an online contributor needs one’s moral compass and demands a personal sense of ethics and responsibility. As news is important the people providing news have a responsibility to voice their personal conscience out loud and allow others to do so as well. They must be willing to question their own work and to differ with the work of others if it is the demand of fairness and accuracy. A sense of ethics is most important for the individual journalist.
- Citizens also have the rights and responsibilities when it comes to news-The average person now works in the same way like a journalist. Writing a blog entry, commenting on a social media site, sending a tweet or liking a picture or a post involves a shorthand version of the journalistic process. A person comes across information, decides it’s authenticity, assesses it’s strength and weakness, determines it’s value for others, decides what to ignore and what to pass on, chooses the best way to share it and then hits the send button. Now this process takes only a few moments. But it’s essentially what reporters do. But two things separate this journalistic-like process from an end product that is journalism. The first is motive and the second is intent. Today as news is available anytime and anywhere a new relationship is being formed between the suppliers of journalism and the people who consume it. The new journalist is no longer a gatekeeper who decides what the public should and should not know. The individual is now his or her own circulation manager and editor. For relevance journalists must now verify information that the consumer already has or is likely to find and then help them make sense of what it means and how they might use it.