Week 1 Definition and Forms of Journalism


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This lecture was designed to inform students about the core element of journalism. Focus was given to the fact that different parts of the world have a different understanding of what journalism is. A key element introduced was the impact of the internet to journalism.

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Week 1 Definition and Forms of Journalism

  3. 3. WHAT IS JOURNALISM?  Journalism is the activity, or product, of journalists or others engaged in the preparation of written, visual, or audio material intended for dissemination through public media with reference to factual, ongoing events of public concern.  Journalism intends to inform society about itself and to make events public that would otherwise remain private. Harcup, Tony (2009), Journalism: Principles and Practice p.3
  4. 4. REUTERS INSTITUTE GLOBAL JOURNALISM  “In HK, journalism just means mass media.  The challenges it is facing is the increasing trend of self-censorship as HK is relying more and more on China.  A lot of media owners have business interests in China.  At the same time, HK citizens realise the need of HK to depend on China for future growth and survival.  So they also want the media to be less critical of China. Pragmatism dominates.”
  5. 5. EGYPT  “Concerning the definition of journalism in Egypt and the major obstacles facing the profession, I think it really needs a lot of effort to achieve any kind of agreement concerning a one solid definition for journalism – but I can say on my way of thinking that many of the Egyptian journalists in Egypt consider this job as the fourth estate or the watchdog of the society, and considers the lack of professional training for journalists one of the biggest problems that faces journalists in Egypt.”
  6. 6. UNITED STATES  “There is no accepted brief definition of journalism in the United States.  The issue stems partly from the rise of Internet communications, in which people without experience or qualifications present themselves as reporters or commentators (unvetted, unedited), and in which the audience self-limits the information it receives and grants credibility to the information that supports its point of view.”
  7. 7. ARGENTINA  “No, there's not an ‘accepted brief definition of 'journalism’ in Argentina, at least not in terms of what you can get from an academic point of view.  In general, I think the major challenge journalism faces these days is the Internet, the Age of Information, the Digital Revolution: how traditional media can make the adjustments and survive; what sort of impact is getting from non-traditional expressions such as the so-called ‘citizen journalism.’”
  8. 8. GERMANY  “Journalism in Germany is often called the fourth pillar of the state; its rights are stated in the German constitution that guarantees the freedom of speech.  The founder of one of the most famous journalism schools in the country, Wolf Schneider, defined journalism as follows: To cut a path of information through the jungle of worldly affairs and to keep an eye on the people in power.
  9. 9.  At the moment, the greatest challenge to the freedom of the press in Germany is the uncertain economic situation and, because of this, the pressure on the media from declining advertising revenue as well as growing demands of proprietors to cut costs often to the detriment of journalistic quality.”
  10. 10. NEW ZEALAND  “As for a definition of journalism in NZ, I believe we follow the principle of fair and balanced reporting of news and issues that affect our community.  The Otago Daily Times has a mission statement to: publish news, information and opinion in a fair, balanced and truthful manner that best serves our community.  That underpins our role as journalists.”
  11. 11. BRAZIL  “As journalism in Brazil has become less analytical and investigative in the past ten years, it means essentially description of reality.  In the newsrooms these days in Brazil normally there are no discussions, planning nor evaluation of the articles.  Any search of new approaches is very rare.  The old idea of journalism as mere writing still reigns.
  12. 12.  Major challenges are motivating journalists to research, to analyse, to evaluate their own work, to grow intellectually and culturally, and do have more of a global view.”
  13. 13. THE NETHERLANDS  “My definition about journalism: gathering news for newspaper or website.  This is in Holland a job that can be done freely.”
  14. 14. CROATIA  In Croatia “The accepted and prevalent definition refers to journalism as a process of conveying information in an objective and impartial way.  Briefly, the major challenges relate to ‘infotainment’ – sensationalism and triviality which are seizing an increasingly larger proportion of the media content (in mainstream dailies and weeklies and on the national public television); lack of quality investigative and follow-up reporting.
  15. 15.  Also, studies of journalism have questionable standards and too traditional curriculum (they lag behind the times, and don't keep pace with numerous changes in the profession, such as online journalism, new communication technologies, etc...).”
  16. 16. TRINIDAD & TOBAGO  “As a former President of the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago, I can say that here the agreed definition of a journalist is someone involved in the gathering and disseminating of news as their premier occupation.
  17. 17.  The Media Association was challenged for this somewhat vague definition which explicitly sought to exclude talk show hosts, newspaper columnists who were academics or otherwise employed; and other media personalities who sought to be included sometimes for no other reason than gaining access to a press pass.  The debate over this issue has still not been settled and there is also some ambivalence over the status of persons who work State-owned information dissemination organisations.  We now have bloggers to add to the
  18. 18. JAPAN  “As for the question about the definition of Journalism in Japan, it is difficult...actually we do not have its specific definition as there is no completely equivalent words for ‘journalism’ in Japanese language.
  19. 19.  It is a complicated linguistic matter: we imported the word ‘journalism’ in our language with Japanese pronunciation ‘ja-narizumu’, which is misunderstood as to be something quite sophisticated and somehow different from news media.  How can I explain this distorted perception?”
  20. 20. EXPECTATIONS OF JOURNALISTS  Journalists are among the pre-eminent story-tellers of modern society.  Their news accounts shape in decisive ways our perceptions of the 'world out there‘ beyond our immediate experience.  For many of us, our sense of what is happening in the society around us, what we should know and care about from one day to the next, is largely derived from the news stories they tell.
  21. 21.  Given that we have to take so much on trust, we rely on news accounts to be faithful representations of reality.  We are asked to believe, after all, that truly professional journalists are able to set aside their individual preconceptions, values and opinions in order to depict reality 'as it actually is' to us, their audience.  This assumption, deeply inscribed in the methods of 'objective' reporting, encourages us to accept these 'reflections' of reality as the most truthful ones available. Allan, S. (2010) ‘The cultural politics of news discourse’ p.5.
  22. 22. WHAT DO JOURNALISTS DO?  Within different forms of media, there are specialist tasks for journalists.  In large organisations, the journalists may specialise in only one task.  In small organisations, each journalist may have to do many different tasks.
  23. 23. REPORTERS  Gather information and present it in a written or spoken form in news stories, feature articles or documentaries.  Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?  Reporters may work on the staff of news organisations, but may also work freelance, writing stories for whoever pays them.  General reporters cover all sorts of news stories, but some journalists specialise in certain areas such as reporting sport, politics or agriculture.
  24. 24. SUB EDITORS  Take the stories written by reporters and put them into a form which suits the special needs of their particular newspaper, magazine, bulletin or web page.  Sub-editors do not usually gather information themselves.  Their job is to concentrate on how the story can best be presented to their audience.  They are often called subs.  The person in charge of them is called the chief sub-editor, usually shortened to chief sub.
  25. 25. PHOTOJOURNALISTS  Use photographs to tell the news.  They either cover events with a reporter, taking photographs to illustrate the written story, or attend news events on their own, presenting both the pictures and a story or caption.
  26. 26. EDITOR  Usually the person who makes the final decision about what is included in the newspaper, magazine or news bulletins.  He or she is responsible for all the content and all the journalists.  Editors may have deputies and assistants to help them.
  27. 27. NEWS EDITOR  The person in charge of the news journalists.  In small organisations, the news editor may make all the decisions about what stories to cover and who will do the work.  In larger organisations, the news editor may have a deputy, often called the chief of staff, whose special job is to assign reporters to the stories selected.
  28. 28. FEATURE WRITERS  Work for newspapers and magazines, writing longer stories which usually give background to the news.  In small organisations the reporters themselves will write feature articles.  The person in charge of features is usually called the features editor.
  29. 29.  Larger radio or television stations may have specialist staff producing current affairs programs - the broadcasting equivalent of the feature article.  The person in charge of producing a particular current affairs program is usually called the producer and the person in charge of all the programs in that series is called the executive producer or EP.
  30. 30. SPECIALIST WRITERS  May be employed to produce personal commentary columns or reviews of things such as books, films, art or performances.  They are usually selected for their knowledge about certain subjects or their ability to write well.  Again, small organisations may use general reporters for some or all of these tasks.
  31. 31.  There are many other jobs which can be done by journalists.  It is a career with many opportunities.
  32. 32. REFLECTION PAPER  The Ethiopian famine gained global recognition in October 1983 when a report filmed by Mohamed Amin (then Visnews’ Africa Bureau Chief) and filed by Michael Buerk of the BBC was screened on the Nine O’Clock News.  Watch this YouTube video about the 1984 famine in Ethiopia.  Give your thoughts on the video news report. Try and link the news report to the section about ‘Expectations of Journalists’. (minimum 250 words)