What is Journalism?

"The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers, and be capable of reading them." -- Thomas Jefferson, US Minister to France, letter to Col. Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787 Journalism is storytelling with a purpose. It must balance what readers know they want with what they cannot anticipate but need. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant. The effectiveness of a piece of journalism is measured both by how much a work engages its audience and enlightens it. Journalists carry an extraordinary burden of keeping the public informed. In pursuit of fulfilling that purpose, journalism relies on four principles:1 2 Seek truth and report it
  • While journalists answer to many constituents, including media owners and advertisers. Nevertheless, they must provide the news without fear or favor. Their commitment and loyalty is to citizens first.
  • Accuracy and truthfulness require that as framers of the public discussion we not neglect the points of common ground where problem solving occurs.
  • Public discussion being a special tool of media, it is best served by facts rather than prejudice and supposition. Varied viewpoints and interests should be placed in context.
  • News must be reported in proportion, not leaving important things out. Proportion and comprehensiveness are subjective, yet their elusiveness does not lessen their significance.
Minimize harm
  • Journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as watchdog. We have an obligation to protect this watchdog role by not demeaning it in frivolous use or exploiting it for commercial gain.
Act independently
  • Independence of spirit and mind is a cornerstone of our reliability and credibility. Our accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform is our strengths.
  • Every journalist has a moral compass. When fairness and accuracy require, we must voice our differences with colleagues. News organizations do well to nurture this independence as it is a diversity of minds, voices and spirit, not just numbers, that matter.
Be accountable and transparent
  • Journalists are not free of bias. Rather, they use a transparent method that includes a discipline of verification and attribution.
1 Borrowed and adopted from the Pew Research Center “Principles of Journalism” http://www.journalism.org/resources/principles-of-journalism/ September 17, 2014 2 Borrowed and adopted from the Society of Professional Journalism “SPJ Code of Ethics” http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp September 17, 2014