Elements of Journalism

Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach are co-authors of the book The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect. 

In this popular journalism reference guide, they have listed 10 essential principles and practices of journalism.

  1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth – Journalists must always pursue the truth above all else. It is very important that journalists always find the facts and double check them in order to be reliable to their audiences. Today there are more sources to get information from than ever before, so it is critically important for producers of news to be credible sources.
  2. Its first loyalty is to citizens – A journalist must always be loyal to its readers. Public interest and the truth must always come before their own personal opinions. Earning the trust of your readers is very important in being a good journalist.
  3. Its essence is a discipline of verification – This discipline is what separates journalism from other forms of communication like propaganda, advertising, fiction and entertainment. Journalists have different methods they use to assess and test information to make sure they get the story right.
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover – Journalistic independence is not neutrality, but avoiding arrogance, elitism, isolation or nihilism. Independence means not being seduced by sources, intimidated by power, or compromised by self-interest.
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power – Journalism can serve as a watchdog for those whose power and position affect citizens the most, and offers a voice to the voiceless.
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise – Journalism is more than just providing an outlet for discussion. It has the responsibility to improve the quality of the debate with verified information. Journalism should attempt to fairly represent varied viewpoints in society.
  7. It must strive to keep the significant interesting and relevant – Although we have stressed the importance of facts, journalism has a responsibility to keep the facts interesting. Journalists need to prove information in a way that will make people inclined to listen.
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional – Journalism creates a map for citizens to navigate society. In order for this to be successful, journalists must take into advantage multiple perspectives and diverse backgrounds.
  9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience – Working as a journalist involves a strong moral compass and demands that you have a sense of ethics and responsibility.
  10. Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news – In today’s world, any average citizen can act as a journalist. Everyone with a Twitter account has the power to affect the media and spread the news. Therefore, all citizens have the same responsibilities as journalists.




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