Summary of ‘The elements of Journalism’


  B. Kovach and T. Rosenstiel explore the element of journalism. The authors start by examining the elements of communication in ancient times where they discovered that the communities shared gossip. The gossip is spread due to an intrinsic desire of satisfying human impulse through information sharing. However, blocking the flow of information results in a quiet, anxious and fearful world where people start to act disproportional. Communication is the source of journalism and it influences the cultures, thoughts, and lives of a community.  

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 The digital age brought changes to the journalism professional after a meeting at Harvard Faculty Club of 25 journalists to discuss the issues facing journalism. Several arguments were on the argument that journalist was protecting the democracy while others opposed. During the era, journalism faced negativities from the public and journalism in the workplace was treated like any other business. The culture of journalism was distorted and the news was not valued and was treated as entertainment. However, the emergence of digital technology increased commercialization where they were more concerned with revenue rather than content.  

 Digitalization completely transformed journalism where it embraced diversity and stopped the following capitalism. One critical element of journalism is the credibility of the news where the audience prefers credible and material news rather than entertainment. The audience has abandoned traditional news formats. The book explores the impact of the digital era and educational systems on journalism. The author argues the need to follow a free press to maintain the first constitutional right. This will explore if there is a possibility to fix journalism issues.


What Is Journalism For?

 This chapter commences by exploring the Polish experiment that marked the end of liberalization in December 1981 when there were fights in the professional between the Communist rule and the Solidarity labor union. It was an era when journalist understood what was their core role which was founded from the American Society of News Editor, “to serve the general welfare by informing the people” (p21) through the truth. All journalism missions employ sovereignty. The chapter highlights the desire of audiences to know more than their experience an aspect termed as Awareness Instinct. For example, we switch on the TV to know more and attain information on changing issues, events, and characters.  

 The conception of journalism dates back in the early 17th century where news was transmitted as a form of story and songs. News in England started in coffeehouses while in America, journalism started in public houses and one common element is that news and the community are inseparable. On the contemporary age, journalism operates on a free press and it is no longer a gatekeeper as the sources of information have increased due to the rise of social media. For example, before getting news from a newspaper or radio, it is possible to see it on Twitter or Facebook.

 However, the journalist, unlike social media, is tasked with the role of the authenticator to determine the reliability element of news. Secondly, journalists are ‘sense makers’ where they transform information to knowledge while the third task is bearing witness of news. Lastly, journalists are ‘watchdogs’ where they investigate crimes. Besides, journalism is a collaborative intelligence where the professionals interrogate individuals in power and dig information and bring light to the audience. They follow the democracy theory of journalism which role is to keep people informed, opens the aspect of public opinion which is connected to the theory of interlocking the citizens which is when the journalists involve the interested audience. However, an emerging threat, the Web where although it was a form of opportunity, there are internet abusers. Will these abusers break journalism?  


Truth: The First and Most Confusing Principle

 According to the chapter, the first obligation of a journalist is truth-telling where the journalist strips information of any disinformation, self-promoting bias, or misinformation. However, the aspect of truth in news has consequences that can greatly affect their profession. For example, after an event occurs, it may be challenging to provide accurate information, due to its significance in truth. This introduces a new challenge in the digital era where a journalist has to balance and differentiate between functional and conditional truth. Such a form of journalist tends to integrate journalism professionals and the ability of journalists to access knowledge and observations of public experience and witness.  

 However, the issue of balancing between fairness and truth but the author argues that fairness is subjective while truthfulness is objective. Besides, trying to balance between fairness and truth is subjective where distortion is likely and in particular if balance is false. The digital era has opened more challenges like the aspect of Journalism of Assertion which overwhelmed the Journalism of Verification. Another model resulting from digitalization is Journalism of Aggregation where publishers rely on search engines and audiences rely on social media for information. To ensure the element of truth, it is essential for journalists to maintain vigilance and intellectual to avoid misinformation.


Who Journalists Work For

 This chapter explores the best mark of value for journalism where previously they were viewed on a subjective Lens but in the present world, they are viewed from the profit and efficiency lens. The journalist started being ranked in terms of performance and revenue which was more on business matters and resulted in the disruption. The disruption negatively affected innovation and led to a generation where journalists’ egoism was less significant in comparison to commitment towards their audience. This is true in the contemporary world as we see journalists more inclined to what they report and publish regarding the citizens. This is an indication that the journalists are more loyal to citizens than to their bosses and political party which is why they can criticize politicians.  

 However, the loyalty and freedom from political and management pressure increased independence that results in isolation as they get detached from the community. In this model, the press was flourishing without increasing its circulation. However, technology has distorted the monopoly as social media and is breaking the money-making strategy. For example, we currently watch TV and access newspapers without paying. This has opened the press to open more avenues which is why we get many commercials while watching our best soap operas. 

 The trend has drastically changed where the citizens are not the major clients and newsrooms have to identify strategies to commit to the citizens. One strategy to commitment is finding a balance between ideology and values which have disrupted the benevolent patriarch. The journalism sector is hiring managers who value citizens, who have news experience and judgment. An integrated model of operation is adhered to where journalists have a voice to management when things contradict editorial integrity. The fourth element setting and communicating clear standards to all journalists. Lastly, commitment is maintained by communicating the set standards clearly to the citizens as the community is part of the paradigm.  


Journalism of Verification

 The chapter starts by differentiating between journalism of assertion to the journalism of verification which explores the period between before Web and Web duration. The competition with rivals is cited as an issue where reporters compete on who to air news before the other without verifying. The chapter provides the arguments of Lippmann on what causes journalists to publish or air unacknowledged, unexamined, or irrational prejudgments, where he introduces the significance of objectivity to neutrality. Lippmann provides an element in the contemporary world that following the objectivity view threatens the confrontation of the civil society as the public becomes an arena of polarized debates, not for the solution, consensus, and compromise.   

 Practically, we see the aspect of objectivity changing as the journalist continues to highly involve the public and the issue is more among European papers than in the American papers where objectivity is a core element. However, several principles can be followed while reporting to ensure verification. 

•   No adding elements that were not originally present

•   Illustrate motives and methods in a transparent approach

•   Journalists should not deceive the citizens

•   Journalists should rely on their original reports

•   Be humble

 However, it is the path, to tell the truth, journalists should not lie to the sources to tell the audience the truth. Another element of verification is originality which is more complicated when journalist highly relies on anonymous sources due to high sensitivity. The last concept of verification is humility where journalists require being more humble where journalists should understand the impact that the other person has on distorting the message. Similar to other elements, verification is challenged by digitalization where journalists require substantiating audiences to believe in uncertain accusations. It is thus essential for a journalist to edit their work with skepticism. However, editors should verify any information from journalists.  


Independence from Faction

 The chapter explores the reevaluation of independence I journalism as according to William Safire ideology, the ethics and molarity of journalism remained invalid and subjective. The arguments date after the confrontation between the federal government and the New York Times on Pentagon Papers. Saffire explores varying forms of journalism including knowledge journalism and opinion journalism which according to him enjoy more liberty. Similarly, in the present world, we see journalists who are experts, some who do not report based on their opinion but facts and maintaining the standards of their employers. 

 Ethics and political activity remains a significant element in journalism as we cannot wait to see opinion and subjectiveness of journalists taking the arena. The journalists are attaining independence from economic status or class where well paid and knowledgeable journalists are prone to democratizing information, auto-correction of falsehood, creation of a wiki culture of contextualization, fairness, and accuracy. Another facet of independence is from gender, religion, ethnicity, and race particularly in the diverse era we are living in. for example, the element of diversity is missing in the newsroom, today as the majority are filled by whites and men which is discriminatory where for example, Business Insider has approximately 90% white, 5%Asian and 5% black 


Monitor Power and offer Voice to the Voiceless

 I believe this is the well-known element of journalism where the monitors the power of a country and speaks for the citizens. The chapter starts by exploring the investigative journalism where the press was viewed as an exposer, reformer, and activist and left out the local reporting. In investigative reporting, the journalists act independently to monitor power through the application of watchdog principle. In this principle, they should not only monitor the government but all individuals and institutions in power. This is what caused President Trump on July 12 to question the 14th Amendment where he argued that journalists’ censors’ conservatives explaining that it is dishonest ad crooked. But based on the element of journalism to monitor power, are journalists misusing the freedom of speech in the 14th Amendment?

 Following the originality of investigative reporting, journalists search for unknown information to the public and present the story to the public. Dilution has greatly affected the role of journalists as watchdogs as journalists continue to consider their consumer pocketbooks and personal safety rather than resident’s freedom. However, digitalization is likely to apply watchdog in another element like social media which promotes the circulation of information. This is due to the challenges facing watchdogs including scarce resources, shrinkage of the newsroom, and challenges accessing the information. 


Journalism as a Public Forum

 The chapter explores an interview with Kathleen Wiley following a threat that she had received. At first, Wiley stated that she had received threats but Chris Mathews ensured and directed that Wiley announced Cody Shearer threatened him. This is an element that is present today where journalists corners interviewees to con them into a corner and using the data as facts. The chapter argues the need for having a forum for public compromise and criticism. Many media houses have adopted the automatic fact-checking where they check what their competitors are releasing. 

 However, the social media era led to Argument Culture where media talk shows increased a sign of alarmism and polarization. According to Michael Crichton, Argument Culture is where the journalist is seen from one extreme spectrum, as anti-abortion, pro-abortion, protectionist, free traders, pro-big government or pro-private. The aspect of journalism as a public forum is evident in the digital era where for example, journalists are identifying ways to verify internet information. One tool common among journalists is “The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) where the institutions check statements from public figures and other organizations to check their objectivity. 


Engagement and Relevance

 Another element is significance and interests where a journalist should produce a report that engaging and relevant. The author argues the need to maintain a balance between storytelling and information. For example, while watching the televisions, the first few broadcasts on news are more information and relevant while the last element illustrated is engaging or storytelling. However, the chapter explains that in storytelling, journalism is more purposeful where they illustrate some of the critical element that the audience requires to understand the world. On the other hand, the element of engagement illustrates the citizenry and commitment of journalism by ensuring the citizens are inclined to listen to it. 

 Engagement and relevance call for an understanding of what the citizens like where a journalist should explore what is already known by the audience to capture their attention. This is true where during the 9/11 every news article I read; I was attracted by their first page. We all wanted to learn every process of the incidence. This is coupled with the aspect of unleashing the power of Web which has varying approaches to reporting than ever learned in the classroom. The chapter highlights the need to walk from the traditional reporting method and adopting the News structured data where the journalist turns news to data which increases relevance and engagement with the audience.  


Make the News Comprehensive and Proportional

 The chapter explores the advantages and disadvantages of studying audiences through the application of the principle of engagement and relevance. The principle of comprehensiveness and proportional through the use of cartography is applicable through the concept of mapping. Comprehensive and proportional increases the accuracy of news to audiences as well as the inclusion of diversity in news making. However, cartography through the use of the mapping approach is subjective in comprehensiveness and proportional. 

 Besides, the disruptions resulting from digitalization have led the pressure to the hype and sensationalize where journalists face the challenge of keeping their populations engaged. Comprehensiveness and proportional are highly affected by the analysis of metrics which is negatively influenced by the web. The Web metrics are used by journalists to evaluate the values by conducting in-depth research through the conventional approach. However, with the increased online journalism, there is the elimination of newsroom, editorial analytics culture.  

 The following convectional analysis explores the population of news stories based on values. However, I feel the popularity of news in journalism is mostly impacted by the significance of stories. The chapter concludes with the element that data metric is significant in terms of pushing comprehensiveness and proportional where information is charted by cartographers who is more attractive to the audience and engaging. 


Journalists Have a Responsibility to Conscience

 The chapter explores staff discontent, its causes and its impact on staff motivation and performance. This is based on the principle that journalism is an act of character as it is not governed by self-policing, licensing, regulations, or laws. However, the profession is guided by its public mission which is covered in chapter one which is balancing the financial aspect of the profession and elements which justify intrusiveness. Besides, digitalization has disrupted the media as the public is highly monitoring the press, society, and politics.  

 The chapter provides the obligation of journalists towards their conscience and has the responsibility to provide room for others to preset their conscience. However several challenges affect the production of news that is accurate, courageous, independent-minded, citizen-focused, balanced, and fair. Besides exercising conscience is challenging where journalists have limited leverage in the professional due to the increased buyouts, layoffs, and expanded use of free or low paid contributors.  

 The responsibility to conscience demands an element of honesty which is in the present world is heightened by the Web and ethical arguments on journalism. An example of the impact of dishonesty and lack of conscience in journalism is the CBS saga where they aired concerning Rathergate where they collected information from a mentally ill person concerning George Bush. The element of dishonesty occurs the used documents which were supposedly created in the age of typewriters in the70s but on closer look, they were written using Microsoft Word fonts.  


The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens

 The chapter commences by exploring the three bombs on July 7, 2005, in the London subway. Following the event, the British Broadcasting Corporation or BBC sent its journalists to the area and involved the citizens where the collected firsthand information in form of pictures, texts, video clips, and emails, in attempts to ‘get things right’. This was the first step of engaging citizens where BBC also started the Digital Storytelling Project. Engaging citizens in journalism is significant as they bring the aspect of diversity in terms of viewpoints and opinions. 

 However, this calls journalism to shift from their realm of self-governance and accept the aspect of training the community on strategies to extract information. However, as citizens’ role in the news arena increase, there is an increase in responsibility of the citizens. The chapter explains that citizens help in shaping news production by choice, which opens the right towards the news, in turn calling the citizens to the element of responsibility. This is where the collection of news by citizens is without judgment and prejudice. 

  The chapter also explores the Citizens’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities which explores the element of truth, loyalty to citizens, a public forum, monitoring power, independence, and proportionality and engagement. From these elements on the bill, it is a summary of all the elements of journalism. One evident trend of citizen journalism in our media houses is crowd-powered journalism which was explained earlier by Amanda Zamora through ProPublica’s. Therefore, citizens play a critical role in journalism professionals. 


List of ReferenceKovach, Bill, and Tom Rosenstiel. The Elements of Journalism. London: Guardian, 2003. Print.

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