• Definitions

Journalism is one of the formal means by which a society tells itself about itself. It creates a common pool of information and knowledge that allows the society to be cohesive, to assess its strengths and weaknesses, and to make life better for its individual members.

Imagine a society without news and a free flow of information.

It’s almost impossible to do because the very nature of our social interactions are based on shared information and shared values.

What is the first thing you do when you enter the school building in the morning. Without realizing it, you look around to see if anything has changed since you saw it last. You listen to what people are saying. You share information and thoughts you have with friends and those around you.

You talk about what? A history test? A football game? A new teacher? Something a fellow student has said?

All of these and a thousand other topics are the “news” that you encounter in your school every day. Some topics and information may be trivial. Others may be of utmost importance. As you go through the day, you continue to gather and share information. In doing so, you are acting as your own journalist within the school environment – gathering and sharing information that you believe is important or interesting.

Famous people make news.

What you do individually every day at school or work or anywhere else you are, journalism seeks to do on a larger scale for society. It gathers information, processes it and distributes it to a wide audience. We will be examining many of the details of how this happens in this course of study.

Meanwhile, here are a few definitions that will help us get started:

Journalism – the process of gathering news and information and distributing it to audiences through various media.

News – events and subjects that meet certain criteria or “news values” (see Section 1.2 News) such as impact, currency, timeliness and prominence.

Reporting – the process of gathering information by journalists.

News organization – a company that is devoted to the process and products of journalism.

Medium (plural: media) – the means through which information is distributed to a broader audience. In journalism, media include newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the web.

Style – rules governing writing and usage of words in journalism.

Professionalism – the culture and self-imposed rules governing the conduct of journalists in the process of gathering and reporting news.

Public service – the idea that journalists do not serve particular individuals, groups or interests in society but rather have a wider responsibility to society as a whole.

News can occur in unusual places


Reeves, Richard. What People Know: Freedom of the Press. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Stovall, James Glen. Journalism: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2006.

JPROF.com, http://jprof.com

Poynter Institute, http://poynter.org

Advanced reading material

Klaidman, Stephen and Tom L. Beauchamp. The Virtuous Journalist. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Fallows, James. Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy. New York: Pantheon, 1995.

Fry, Don, ed. Believing the News. St. Petersburg: Poynter Institute for Media Studies, 1985.

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