The Elements of Journalism

Yesterday, I posted the Journalist’s Creed, a timeless definition and enduring commitment to the practice of true journalism. Walter Williams, the first dean of the Missouri School of Journalism, wrote his creed more than one century ago and in my view it still serves as an insightful, illuminating statement on media ethics.

Today, I post the Elements of Journalism, a set of principles and practices that shape the purpose, production and place of journalism in today’s modern society. The elements represent the distilled work of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, who convened more than a decade ago to define the most important features of journalism in a rapidly changing world.

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel published the elements, and added a final one, in their book, The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect.They are as follows:

  1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
  2. Its first loyalty is to citizens.
  3. Its essence is a discipline of verification.
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and in proportion.
  9. Its practitioners have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience.
  10. Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news.

The mainstream media is flawed, and the larger media environment limited, when it comes to getting a full and fair account of of the news. That we know. But I’d say if more journalists practiced these elements, the press would improve its usefulness in society, and its trustworthiness to the public.


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