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How to Review & Evaluate a Journal Publication

Last Updated: January 8, 2024 Fact Checked

Active Reading

Critical evaluation, final review.

This article was co-authored by Richard Perkins . Richard Perkins is a Writing Coach, Academic English Coordinator, and the Founder of PLC Learning Center. With over 24 years of education experience, he gives teachers tools to teach writing to students and works with elementary to university level students to become proficient, confident writers. Richard is a fellow at the National Writing Project. As a teacher leader and consultant at California State University Long Beach's Global Education Project, Mr. Perkins creates and presents teacher workshops that integrate the U.N.'s 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the K-12 curriculum. He holds a BA in Communications and TV from The University of Southern California and an MEd from California State University Dominguez Hills. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 148,156 times.

Whether you’re publishing a journal article review or completing one for a class, your critique should be fair, thorough, and constructive. Don't worry—this article will walk you through exactly how to review a journal article step-by-step. Keep reading for tips on how to analyze the article, assess how successful it is, and put your thoughts into words. 

Step 1 Familiarize yourself with your publication’s style guide.

  • Familiarizing yourself with format and style guidelines is especially important if you haven’t published with that journal in the past. For example, a journal might require you to recommend an article for publication, meet a certain word count, or provide revisions that the authors should make.
  • If you’re reviewing a journal article for a school assignment, familiarize yourself the guidelines your instructor provided.

Step 2 Skim the article to get a feel for its organization.

  • While giving the article a closer read, gauge whether and how well the article resolves its central problem. Ask yourself, “Is this investigation important, and does it uniquely contribute to its field?”
  • At this stage, note any terminological inconsistencies, organizational problems, typos, and formatting issues.

Step 1 Decide how well the abstract and introduction map out the article.

  • How well does the abstract summarize the article, the problem it addresses, its techniques, results, and significance? For example, you might find that an abstract describes a pharmaceutical study's topic and skips to results without discussing the experiment's methods with much detail.
  • Does the introduction map out the article’s structure? Does it clearly lay out the groundwork? A good introduction gives you a clear idea of what to expect in the coming sections. It might state the problem and hypothesis, briefly describe the investigation's methods, then state whether the experiment proved or disproved the hypothesis.

Step 2 Evaluate the article’s references and literature review.

  • If necessary, spend some time perusing copies of the article’s sources so you can better understand the topic’s existing literature.
  • A good literature review will say something like, "Smith and Jones, in their authoritative 2015 study, demonstrated that adult men and women responded favorably to the treatment. However, no research on the topic has examined the technique's effects and safety in children and adolescents, which is what we sought to explore in our current work."

Step 3 Examine the methods.

  • For example, you might observe that subjects in medical study didn’t accurately represent a diverse population.

Step 4 Assess how the article presents data and results.

  • For example, you might find that tables list too much undigested data that the authors don’t adequately summarize within the text.

Step 5 Evaluate non-scientific evidence and analyses.

  • For example, if you’re reviewing an art history article, decide whether it analyzes an artwork reasonably or simply leaps to conclusions. A reasonable analysis might argue, “The artist was a member of Rembrandt’s workshop, which is evident in the painting’s dramatic light and sensual texture.”

Step 6 Assess the writing style.

  • Is the language clear and unambiguous, or does excessive jargon interfere with its ability to make an argument?
  • Are there places that are too wordy? Can any ideas be stated in a simpler way?
  • Are grammar, punctuation, and terminology correct?

Step 1 Outline your review.

  • Your thesis and evidence should be constructive and thoughtful. Point out both strengths and weaknesses, and propose alternative solutions instead of focusing only on weaknesses.
  • A good, constructive thesis would be, “The article demonstrates that the drug works better than a placebo in specific demographics, but future research that includes a more diverse subject sampling is necessary.”

Step 2 Write your review’s first draft.

  • The introduction summarizes the article and states your thesis.
  • The body provides specific examples from the text that support your thesis.
  • The conclusion summarizes your review, restates your thesis, and offers suggestion for future research.

Step 3 Revise your draft before submitting it.

  • Make sure your writing is clear, concise, and logical. If you mention that an article is too verbose, your own writing shouldn’t be full of unnecessarily complicated terms and sentences.
  • If possible, have someone familiar with the topic read your draft and offer feedback.

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  • ↑ https://www.science.org/content/article/how-review-paper
  • ↑ https://www.uis.edu/learning-hub/writing-resources/handouts/learning-hub/how-to-review-a-journal-article
  • ↑ http://library.queensu.ca/inforef/criticalreview.htm

About This Article

Richard Perkins

If you want to review a journal article, you’ll need to carefully read it through and come up with a thesis for your piece. Read the article once to get a general idea of what it says, then read it through again and make detailed notes. You should focus on things like whether the introduction gives a good overview of the topic, whether the writing is concise, and whether the results are presented clearly. When you write your review, present both strengths and weaknesses of the article so you’re giving a balanced assessment. Back up your points with examples in the main body of your review, which will make it more credible. You should also ensure your thesis about the article is clear by mentioning it in the introduction and restating it in the conclusion of your review. For tips on how to edit your review before publication, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Expert Commentary

What’s peer review? 5 things you should know before covering research

Is peer-reviewed research really superior? Why should journalists note in their stories whether studies have been peer reviewed? We explain.

peer review research journalists news coverage

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License .

by Denise-Marie Ordway, The Journalist's Resource May 8, 2021

This <a target="_blank" href="https://journalistsresource.org/media/peer-review-research-journalists/">article</a> first appeared on <a target="_blank" href="https://journalistsresource.org">The Journalist's Resource</a> and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.<img src="https://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/cropped-jr-favicon-150x150.png" style="width:1em;height:1em;margin-left:10px;">

As scholars and other experts rush to release new research aimed at better understanding the coronavirus pandemic, newsrooms must be more careful than ever in vetting the biomedical studies they choose to cover. One of the first steps journalists should take to gauge the quality of all types of research is answering this important question: Has the paper undergone peer review?

Peer review is a formal process through which researchers evaluate and provide feedback on one another’s work, ideally filtering out flawed and low-quality studies while strengthening others. Academic journals generally do not publish papers that have not survived the process. Researchers often share studies that have not been peer reviewed — usually referred to as working papers or preprints — by posting them to online servers and repositories.

It’s worth noting the world’s largest preprint servers for life sciences — bioRxiv — and health sciences — medRxiv — screen papers for plagiarism and content that is offensive, non-scientific or might pose a health or biosecurity risk. But there are preprint servers in other fields that do not apply the same level of scrutiny.

While peer review is intended for quality control, it is imperfect. For example, reviewers, who often are college faculty with expertise in the same field as the work they are examining, sometimes fail to detect fraud, data discrepancies and other problems. Even some of the most prestigious journals with the most rigorous peer-review processes have had to retract articles. Retractions are rare, however.

 “Only about four of every 10,000 papers are now retracted. And although the rate roughly doubled from 2003 to 2009, it has remained level since 2012,” Science magazine reported in 2018 .

As of early May 2021, a total of 108 papers about COVID-19 , the bulk of which appeared in journals, had been withdrawn, according to Retraction Watch , which maintains an online database of research retractions going back decades.

Despite its flaws, researchers, overall, seem confident in peer review. During a 2019 survey of more than 3,000 researchers across disciplines in multiple countries, 85% agreed or strongly agreed that without peer review, there is no control in scientific communication. The survey — conducted by Elsevier , one of the world’s largest journal publishers, and Sense about Science , a London-based nonprofit promoting public interest in science and evidence — also finds 90% of participating researchers agreed or strongly agreed that peer review improves the quality of research.

Several published studies present similar findings. A 2017 paper in Learned Publishing indicates early career researchers are “generally supportive of peer review” but complain the process is time-consuming and that reviewers, who typically work on a volunteer basis, should be rewarded with some sort of professional acknowledgement or payment.

Regardless of the type of research journalists cover, they should have at least a basic understanding of the peer-review process and its benefits and shortcomings.

Below, we explain some of the most important aspects with help from several experts, including Diane Sullenberger , executive editor of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ; Miriam Lewis Sabin , a senior editor at The Lancet ; and John Inglis , executive director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press and co-founder of bioRxiv and medRxiv.

1. Peer reviewers are not fraud detectors. They also do not verify the accuracy of a research study.

The peer-review process is meant to validate research, not verify it. Reviewers typically do not authenticate the study’s data or make sure its authors actually followed the procedures they say they followed to reach their conclusions. Reviewers, sometimes called referees, also do not determine whether findings are correct, given the data and other evidence used to reach them.

Reviewers do examine academic papers to answer a range of relevant questions. They look at whether the research questions are clear, for example, and whether the study’s design, sampling methods and analysis are appropriate for answering those questions. They also assess whether the paper answers such questions as:

  • Is the study explained clearly enough and in enough detail that another researcher could replicate it?
  • How does the study challenge or add to the body of knowledge on this topic?
  • Does it fit the standards and scope of the journal to which it was submitted?
  • If the study involves humans or animals, did the authors acquire the required approvals and meet ethical standards?
  • Does it give proper attribution to earlier research?

When German theologian Henry Oldenburg created the first journal dedicated to science in 1665, he considered the key functions of a research journal to be registration, certification, dissemination and archiving, writes Robert Campbell , a senior publisher at Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, in the book Academic and Professional Publishing .

Peer review is considered the gold standard for assessing research content, Sullenberger explained in an email interview. But journalists must understand it is not infallible, she added.

“Science is self-correcting through replication and reproducibility, and research fraud can be difficult to detect in peer review,” she wrote.

2. Journalists can help the public recognize the value of peer review by noting whether the studies they cover have been peer reviewed.

Scholars, research organizations and others regularly criticize news outlets for failing to explain whether new research they report on or the older studies they incorporate into their stories have undergone peer review. It’s important that journalists differentiate between peer-reviewed research and preprint papers, which often present preliminary findings.

Sullenberger told JR : “Greater clarity when journalists cover unreviewed preprints is needed; they should not be reported as having the same validity and authority as peer-reviewed research papers. “

A recent study in the journal Health Communication finds that many of the news articles written about COVID-related preprints during the first four months of 2020 did not indicate the scientific uncertainty of that research. About 43% of the stories analyzed did not mention the research was a preprint, unreviewed, preliminary or in need of verification.

At the time of that study, however, many of the journalists drawn into reporting the frenzy of stories about the pandemic were unfamiliar with preprints, Inglis says. Today, he adds, journalists covering the coronavirus are much more likely to include phrases such as “not yet peer reviewed” to describe preprints.

Sense About Science urges the public to pay attention to whether a study being discussed in a government meeting or in the media has been peer reviewed. “The more we ask, ‘is it peer reviewed?’ the more obliged reporters will be to include this information,” the organization asserts in a leaflet it created to help the public scrutinize the scientific information featured in news stories.

Knowing whether research has been peer reviewed helps a person judge how much weight to give the claims being made by its authors, Tracey Brown , the managing director of Sense About Science, explained during an interview with The Scholarly Kitchen blog.

“We have to establish an understanding that the status of research findings is as important as the findings themselves,” Brown says in a prepared statement . “This understanding has the capacity to improve the decisions we make across all of society.”

3. Peer reviewers help decide a study’s fate.

Journal editors typically assign two or more reviewers to each research paper. Some also employ a statistical specialist.

While the selection process differs, journals choose reviewers based on factors such as expertise, reputation and the journal’s prior experience with the reviewer. While it can be difficult to recruit scientists willing to examine manuscripts because of the time required for proper scrutiny, many do it because of “a sense of duty to help advance their disciplines, as well as the need for reciprocity, knowing other researchers volunteer to peer review their manuscript submissions,” Science magazine reported earlier this year .

Reviewers can make recommendations about whether a journal should accept, reject or send a paper back for minor or major revisions. Reviewers usually submit reports offering their overall impressions of a paper and suggestions for improvements. Most often, though, the final decision lies with one or more of the journal’s editors or its editorial board.

Inglis, a former assistant editor of The Lancet who is now a publisher of five peer-reviewed journals, says a common criticism of the peer-review process is its lengthy timeline, which can span from weeks to a year or more. Another complaint: Sometimes, journals send a study back and notify the authors that they would be willing to accept or reconsider the paper for publication if the authors do more research.

“Sometimes, the demands made are completely unrealistic,” Inglis adds. “The criticism from the authors is that editors don’t know that when they say ‘Do this additional experiment,’ that’s another year [added to the timeline]. Meanwhile, the work is perfectly valid.”

Inglis says bioRxiv (pronounced “bio-archive”) and medRxiv (pronounced “med-archive”) were created so researchers could disseminate preliminary versions of their papers, allowing the scientific community to immediately use and start building on those findings and data.

4. The peer-review process varies significantly among academic journals.

There are several kinds of peer review, and journals often state on their websites which one they use. The most common are single-blinded peer review, which allows reviewers to know the authors’ identities while reviewers’ identities remain anonymous, and double-blinded peer review, in which authors and reviewers are unaware of each other’s identities.

Both have advantages. Advocates argue anonymity protects reviewers from retribution. It also helps shield authors from biases based on factors such as gender, nationality, language and affiliations with less prestigious institutions, Tony Ross-Hellauer , a postdoctoral researcher at the Know-Center in Austria, writes in “ What is Open Peer Review? A Systematic Review ,” published on the European open access platform F1000Research in 2017.

Keeping identities secret can create problems, however.

“At the editorial level, lack of transparency means that editors can unilaterally reject submissions or shape review outcomes by selecting reviewers based on their known preference for or aversion to certain theories and methods,” Ross-Hellauer writes. He adds that reviewers, “shielded by anonymity, may act unethically in their own interests by concealing conflicts of interest.”

A newer type of peer review, called open peer review , is not as prevalent. But the scientific community has ongoing discussions about whether its greater transparency might help improve research quality.

While there is no universally accepted definition of open peer review, also known as open identity peer review, the identities of both authors and reviewers typically are made known to each other. Ross-Hellauer notes that disclosing reviewers’ names may force them “to think more carefully about the scientific issues and to write more thoughtful reviews.”

A growing number of journals are posting not just the papers they accept but also the feedback peer reviewers gave the papers’ authors.

5. Peer review continues to evolve.

Some journals have started initiating peer review after a paper is published instead of beforehand, although this still is not common. MedEdPublish , an online scholarly journal, is one of those that employ post-publication peer review . Its papers undergo peer review on the website by members of the medical education community, which could include the journal’s editor, members of its editorial board or a panel of reviewers.

Under the MedEdPublish model, a paper has undergone formal peer review after at least two members of the journal’s review panel evaluate it. The paper can be critiqued and improved over time as a living document on the journal website.

“Post-publication peer review follows an open and transparent process, which aims to avoid editorial bias while increasing the speed of publication,” according to the website. “We use an ‘open identities’ principle, whereby all reviewers submit their feedback publicly, under their own name, and everyone visiting an article page can see all peer review reports, referee names, and comments, and can join the discussion if they wish.”

Another noteworthy shift: Some journals are working to diversify their pools of reviewers by ensuring women, racial and ethnic minorities, and scientists from other countries help appraise and select studies for publication.

Research indicates the overwhelming majority of experts chosen as reviewers are men. A study published earlier this year in Science Advances examines internal data for 145 scholarly journals across fields and finds that women comprised 21% of their reviewers between 2010 and 2016. At journals dedicated to biomedical and health research, 24.6% of reviewers were women.

The Lancet medical journal has set targets for increasing the number of women and scientists from low- and middle-income countries, Sabin, one of its senior editors, wrote in an email interview with JR . In 2019, The Lancet family of journals announced its Diversity Pledge .

“We track, monitor, and report representation of authors, reviewers, and editorial advisors by gender and across geography,” Sabin told JR in an e-mail.

She added that the journal formed a task force late last year to, among other things, examine its policies and processes to find ways to increase the representation of experts who are racial and ethnic minorities.

The Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications has focused on the issue globally. More than 90 organizations have adopted the coalition’s Joint Statement of Principles , which aims to “promote involvement, innovation, and expanded access to leadership opportunities that maximize engagement across identity groups and professional levels.”

Identity groups include racial and sexual minorities, military veterans, pregnant women, parents and people from lower social classes and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The Journalist’s Resource would like to thank Rick Weiss, the director of SciLine, and Meredith Drosback, SciLine’s associate director of science, for their help in creating this tip sheet.

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Science News

How science news does science journalism.

Science News has been publishing award-winning science journalism for nearly a century. Our standards and processes are essential to what we do, and we believe they should be as transparent and accessible as the stories we publish.

We created this FAQ to answer your questions about what goes into our journalism. Take a look, and if you have more questions or suggestions, let’s start a conversation. Write to us at [email protected] .

  • Covering research in scientific journals
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We write about science, medicine and technology broadly, including new findings and techniques, surprising statistics and the latest science trends.

Who writes for Science News?

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Most of our writers specialize in a particular area of science. Here are their bios . Our staff combines experience in scientific research — many writers have Ph.D.s or other degrees in areas related to the topics they write about — and in journalism. Those skills help us gather, critically assess and present information. We also work with freelancers who have experience writing about scientific topics.

Where does Science News get ideas for stories?

Story ideas can come from anywhere, but here are a few methods we often use:

  • Reading studies in scientific journals, including widely known ones such as Science and Nature and journals focused on specific areas of science
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  • Exploring the science behind topics of interest to readers and the general public
  • Scanning the news for opportunities to explain science related to current events
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How does science news judge the quality of a study appearing in a scientific journal.

We evaluate the size of a study, including the number of participants or the amount of data collected, and assess whether the data presented match the researchers’ interpretations. We typically consult experts who were not involved in the research. When claims of statistical significance are made, we gauge whether what’s statistically true is likely to have any real-world relevance — and, in some cases, verify a paper’s statistical analyses with statisticians. We also interview scientists whose work is referenced in a study to ensure that the work is being represented and interpreted accurately, and consider how many lines of evidence support the conclusions.

When and how does Science News report on research that hasn’t been peer-reviewed?

Research studies are often evaluated by other scientists to determine if they are good enough to be published in a journal. Peer reviewers examine the experimental design, methods and statistics for scientific rigor. Reviewers also evaluate the conclusions to see if data support the claims made. This review is meant to maintain standards in the field and to determine if the scientific claims are sound and novel.

But research may be newsworthy even if it hasn’t yet been scrutinized by peer reviewers. When we cover research that hasn’t been peer-reviewed — such as scientific findings that are presented at a conference or a research paper made available at arXiv.org, bioRxiv.org or on another “preprint” server — we approach it with extra care and might consult more outside experts than we otherwise would.

Often there is little difference, if any, between the paper posted to a preprint site and what appears in a journal after peer review, but sometimes the changes are substantial. When covering work that hasn’t been peer-reviewed, writers may ask researchers what sort of feedback they’ve gotten from others in the community and how much is likely to change in a future peer-review process. When covering research presented at meetings, writers try to gauge how far from publication a finding is and what major questions remain to be answered. Sometimes we don’t write about hot new studies because they are too preliminary. Other times we may write about a preliminary finding because its implications are striking.

Why do Science News stories use words like “could,” “may” and “suggests” when talking about scientific results?

Every scientific finding has caveats, limitations and alternate explanations. Our writers and editors use terms such as “suggests” or “could” when a finding is not yet certain. These terms reflect the fact that scientific research is an ongoing process. Rarely does one single study fully answer a scientific question. Science News writers and editors work hard to place the findings of each new study in context.

How do press embargoes affect our coverage?

The embargo is a mandate that forbids a news organization from publishing a story about a given topic until a certain time. Publishers of scientific journals, PR agencies and institutions use embargoes to control when news is released to journalists and the public. Embargoes explain why you may see many news outlets publish stories on the same research at the same time. Institutions will often send press releases or release scientific papers to journalists a few days in advance under embargo, in hopes that the research will get press coverage. An embargo gives us more time to report on that research and pull together an accurate story.

Who do Science News writers interview for a story?

Our writers look broadly for sources to interview for stories, including authors of scientific papers, experts whose work is cited in a research paper, trusted contacts cultivated over years of reporting, recommendations from other experts and online searches. We also talk to people who aren’t scientists, including policy makers, patients, industry leaders and people whose lives are affected by new developments in science, technology and medicine.

When writing about a scientific study, why does Science News quote people who aren’t involved in the research?

Interviewing outside experts who weren’t involved directly in the research can provide an independent assessment of various aspects of the work. Outside experts can put a study into context, give perspective on a study’s importance and point out potential strengths and weaknesses of the work.

How does Science News evaluate sources?

Our writers try to find subject-matter experts who can provide accurate and up-to-date information. Writers and editors check sources’ institutional affiliations, their publications and sometimes social media. We ask sources about personal biases or financial conflicts that readers should know about and generally avoid sources who might have conflicts of interest.


What’s the editing and production process at science news.

Getting a story ready for publication is an all-staff effort. For shorter news stories, at least one content editor sees a story before publication. Editors work to ensure that the news and context are clear and that important details are included and accurate. The design director and assistant art directors choose and edit photos, videos and infographics to accompany stories, or create those visuals. The web production and social media team craft headlines, put the stories online and come up with posts for Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

For longer features, as well as in-depth infographics and videos, the editing process can take weeks to months. The first draft of a feature article is reviewed by multiple editors as well as the design and web production teams, so they can begin planning images or other media to accompany the story.

How does Science News find and evaluate images, videos and other multimedia?

Images, videos and other multimedia powerfully convey scientific concepts. We often use media produced by outside sources, including research institutions, scientific journals, researchers and stock photo agencies. Our design team researches visual options and checks to make sure they are accurate and that we have complied with all licensing requirements, including crediting the source of the image. Our design team also commissions original illustrations, graphics, photography and video – or creates those visuals.


Are all science news stories fact-checked.

Due to time constraints, news stories published online do not regularly go through a distinct fact-checking process. Editors do perform some fact-checking duties, such as checking names, affiliations and numbers for accuracy, along with looking for logical inconsistencies, and writers check their facts as well. Feature stories are fact-checked before they are posted online. And online news stories that later appear in the print magazine are fact-checked before they are published in print.

What is the fact-checking process at Science News?

Science News has two staff members who fact-check content, and we also rely on freelance fact-checkers. Fact-checkers do their best to confirm the accuracy of all parts of a story, including headlines, photo captions and credits, data that appear in graphs or charts and the raw data behind any visualizations or interactives. The fact-checkers use materials provided by the writer, including research papers, websites and interview notes or transcripts; they also perform independent research. Our fact-checkers do not call sources to check the quotes used in a story.

Do people quoted in an article get to see the article and their quotes before publication?

It’s the responsibility of writers to ensure the accuracy of quotes. Writers often return to a source to check facts, but sources are not allowed to review articles prior to publication. This is standard journalistic practice to maintain independence and editorial integrity.

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We publish corrections for factual errors as well as any misleading or mischaracterizing statements. It is up to the writer and editors to verify a mistake and determine how the story should be changed to correct the error. When an online story is updated, an editor’s note at the end of the story indicates what text has been fixed and for what reason, as well as the date of the change. For a story that has appeared in print, the correction typically appears on the Feedback page of the earliest print issue after the error is identified.


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Editorial independence is the freedom of editors and writers at a news organization to report and write about topics at will, without an external party’s involvement. At Science News, no institution, government body, scientist or other entity, including our publisher, the Society for Science , determines what we write about, nor are we paid to write about (or not write about) certain stories. We publish stories only on what we find newsworthy. You can learn more about our editorial independence on our About page .

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Behind the Journalism: How The Times Works

The Times publishes hundreds of pieces of journalism every day. We apply ethical standards and rigorous reporting to every article, video, podcast, newsletter and interactive we produce. Here are some explanations of the policies and processes that define our journalism.

By The New York Times Trust Team

Anonymous sources: Why does The Times use them?

“Reporters and editors have to be relentless and skeptical in handling anonymous sourcing. It should never be routine or casual.” Phil Corbett , standards editor

“Speaking on the condition of anonymity …”

“Discussed the incident on the condition that they not be named …”

“According to people familiar with …”

You’ve undoubtedly seen these phrases in Times articles, but what exactly do they mean?

Our reporting is based on sources. They can be officials, witnesses, records — essentially anyone or anything that can offer information on a particular topic. When we don’t disclose a human source by name, that person is considered an anonymous source. Under our guidelines, these sources should be used only for information that we believe is newsworthy and credible, and that we are not able to report any other way.

But why does The Times shield the identity of some sources? We recognize that the use of anonymous sources is sometimes crucial to our journalistic mission. It can give readers genuine insight into the uses and abuses of power — in Washington, on Wall Street and beyond. In sensitive areas like national security reporting, it can be unavoidable. Sources sometimes risk their careers, their freedom and even their lives by talking to us.

What we consider before using anonymous sources:

How do they know the information?

What’s their motivation for telling us?

Have they proved reliable in the past?

Can we corroborate the information they provide?

Because using anonymous sources puts great strain on our most valuable asset: our readers’ trust, the reporter and at least one editor is required to know the identity of the source. A senior newsroom editor must also approve the use of the information the source provides.

How does The Times handle corrections?

“The Times’s primary responsibility is to give readers accurate information, and our readers trust us to do that. By acknowledging our mistakes quickly and transparently, we build on that fundamental trust.” Rogene Jacquette, corrections editor

We recognize an ethical responsibility to correct all factual errors, large and small, promptly and in a prominent space. We encourage readers to reach out to us at [email protected] when they spot a possible mistake.

The corrections process:

First, we determine if we made an error. We contact the reporters and editors involved and, if a correction is warranted, we adjust the article and add the correction.

Even when we catch a mistake mere seconds after publishing, we still acknowledge it with a correction. There is no five-second rule.

Corrections should appear in any and all editions (print and digital) or platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) that carried the error. We also correct mistakes in newsletters, in videos and on podcasts like “The Daily.”

For obvious typos, we correct the error without appending a correction.

During breaking news, there are times when incorrect information is part of the story and does not require a correction: A death toll may be reduced, the number of suspects may change or officials may correct an earlier statement. We typically explain these changes in the updating article and do not append a correction.


Here’s how The Times is covering the Israel-Hamas war.

Two Palestinian journalists embrace each other and one is looking off to the side and appears to be crying. Both wear jackets with the words “press” printed on them.

Reporting inside Gaza is extremely challenging right now. Israel has prevented journalists from entering the region except when accompanied by its military, and then only under certain conditions, while Egypt, along its border, is also blocking access. Communications have been limited, in part because of the Israeli siege of the enclave. Many Palestinian journalists in Gaza have been killed in airstrikes. And even before the war, Hamas restricted what reporters could cover in Gaza, limiting their movement, interrogating their sources and translators and expelling foreign reporters for work deemed objectionable.

The Times, along with other news organizations, has asked the governments of Israel and Egypt for direct access to Gaza because reporting on the ground is vital to understanding this crisis. Throughout the war, The Times has been working with journalists who were already in Gaza when the siege began. We have been interviewing residents and officials in Gaza by phone and using digital apps. We have asked people in the area to share their stories with us on video, which we then confirm are real. We also verify photos and social media posts using similar techniques, scrutinizing them to determine where and when they were taken or written and cross-checking with other sources, such as satellite imagery. We cross reference any information we gather with interviews with the U.N. and other international organizations, many of which have employees in different parts of Gaza.

In general, we try to avoid relying on a single source and we seek to include detailed information whenever possible.

— The New York Times

How New York Times reporters avoid personal involvement in politics.

Our ethics guidelines state that journalists have no place on the playing fields of politics. Of course, staff members are entitled to vote, but they must do nothing that might raise questions about their professional neutrality or that of The Times.

Staff members may not:

Endorse candidates

Give money to, or raise money for, any political candidate or election cause

Seek public office

Wear campaign buttons

March or rally in support of public causes or movements

But just because our reporters and editors are not participating in political events, doesn’t mean they don’t care deeply about certain issues. That is why we urge them to be aware of their own biases and to consider how someone with an opposing view might think about the topics they are covering. Framing and characterizing all viewpoints with fairness and depth is central to our approach to reporting.

Our reputation for independence rests upon the public’s faith that we can carry out our work free from influence and overt bias.

How The Times covers extreme weather.

“Oftentimes reporters are the first people to arrive at a place after it has been hit. That is a difficult experience.” Patricia Mazzei, Miami bureau chief

During extreme weather, and related events such as wildfires and floods, we move quickly to bring vital information to those who need it, sending reporters and visual journalists to the scene.

“Once the storm hits, we try to get as close to the hardest-hit part as quickly and safely as possible,” said Patricia Mazzei, the Miami bureau chief for The Times, who has covered natural disasters for more than 15 years, including several major hurricanes.

“At the beginning, it feels very like you’re the eyes and ears of the reader,” Mazzei said. “They’re not there, your editors are not there. You know that you have to absorb the sights and sounds and smells and what people are saying and how they feel and what it looks like and feels like for them. And then you have to pull out, in order to transmit this information. It’s a logistical dance that is very difficult and requires a lot of resources.”

When Mazzei and her colleagues reach a disaster zone, they often find people out surveying the damage or helping their neighbors. “You encounter these moments of humanity that sort of just blow your mind,” she said. “By telling their stories, we can let the world know what happened. And people really want the world to know what happened.”

Traveling with police officers, firefighters and search-and-rescue teams can also be essential in helping readers understand the urgency and severity of a storm. Their insight can help reporters piece together the damage the storm caused, and understand what it will take for a hard-hit community to come back from it.

Our reporters and editors reach out to emergency service agencies and forecasters as a disaster is unfolding, checking in hourly at times to let readers know where the most damage is occurring, and if they need to evacuate. But being at the scene, interviewing the people experiencing the brunt of the disaster, is how we can bring readers stories of survival , resilience and tragedy .

“It’s difficult to convey the panic and the immediacy of what people are feeling unless you get into the details , ” said Shawn Hubler, a National desk reporter who has covered California floods, wildfires and earthquakes for 40 years. “They’ll say it was terrifying. And by terrifying, you don’t know what they mean until you drill down a little bit and you find out there were embers the size of baseballs slamming into their car as they tried to wind their way down some two-lane highway.”

The on-the-ground reporting can also lead to some of the most important stories The Times can tell, seeking to hold decision makers accountable when warnings aren’t issued or heeded, when poor choices put people or communities in harm’s way, or when long-term planning or infrastructure has been insufficient or neglected, making the outcomes of extreme weather even worse.

For our journalists back at the office, the pace during an ongoing weather story can be frenetic. Editors on the National and Express desks field reports from several locations while also monitoring the course of a storm, the problems it is causing — including evacuations, power outages and flight cancellations — and how those affected can seek help.

For events such as blizzards, typhoons, hurricanes and severe weather that could produce tornadoes, our weather data and graphics teams step in early with forecasts and graphics that show the likely path and intensity of the storms.

Our Weather Data team is led by John Keefe and anchored by the meteorologist Judson Jones. For this team it is data, data, data. “Because we are looking at it all the time, it’s easier for us to explain when there are weird quirks,” Keefe said. This allows the team to alert editors to a coming weather system.

The team uses data primarily from the National Weather Service, augmented by other branches of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And Jones keeps in close touch with scientists at these agencies, and with academics who research weather. His expertise allows him to speak their language and interpret their jargon for readers. “My job is to translate that into terms that matter,” he said, “and sometimes that’s filtering out what doesn’t matter.”

Our Graphics desk, led by Archie Tse, takes this information and turns it into maps that track a storm’s path; animated time loops that give readers the scale of the storm; and graphics that show rainfall, wind speed and storm surge. The goal is to create weather trackers that focus on the aspects that threaten to cause the most damage. Tse said that a combination of news judgment and design expertise goes into every graphic. “Our maps and visualizations are tailored for our readers to give them the information they need in a clear and concise way,” he said.

Because the science establishing a direct link between extreme weather events and the rapid warming of the planet is increasingly clear, our Climate desk, which includes more than a dozen journalists, joins in our coverage to provide data, visual explanations and insights.

Here are some of the sources we use for extreme weather events.

The Storm Prediction Center , the Weather Prediction Center , the National Hurricane Center and other divisions within the National Weather Service.

The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts ( E.C.M.W.F .).

The National Weather Service for the number of people under storm watches, warnings and advisories across the United States.

PowerOutage, a website that collects and aggregates data on the number of utility customers without power in the United States and other parts of the world.

FlightAware , which displays the cancellations and delays of commercial airline flights around the world.

These are all available to the public, but we sometimes subscribe for access to more data.

We also provide guidance for those in the paths of storms, offering ways they can prepare for and survive hurricanes , flash floods and tornadoes .

Weather is news. We cover it with the understanding that it has an impact on readers’ lives. And while extreme events may begin as breaking news, they often become stories of survival, tragedy, science and accountability.

Mass shootings: This is how The Times covers them.

“Our job is to never allow this to become routine, and to — once we do confirm it — react and cover it aggressively, as though it’s the very first one we’ve covered.” Marc Lacey , managing editor

Our newsroom receives reports of active gunman situations in the United States at least once a day, on average. We monitor the situation, confirm details and, if warranted, send a team of reporters to the scene. Within 24 hours of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, The Times had at least 25 reporters and 15 editors working on the story.

Our overall goal is to give readers an in-depth account, while being sensitive to victims and loved ones. We want to avoid sensationalizing the crime or elevating the stature of the attacker.

How we define and count mass shootings

Once we confirm a death count, we tell readers the scope of the shooting and how it fits into the bigger picture of these crimes across the country.

To create a consistent count of mass shootings in the United States, we have updated our definition of “mass shooting,” to include any shooting where four or more people are killed with a firearm — not including the assailant — in a public place and the shooting is not connected to another crime or circumstance, like a robbery, a drug deal or domestic violence. This definition, which was created by the Congressional Research Service , is based on the F.B.I.’s definition of mass murder. This definition is also used by the most comprehensive database on the subject: the Violence Project .

Our count of mass shootings is based on data from both the Gun Violence Archive and the Violence Project. We use data from both sources in order to make sure our database is as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible.

How we report on the crime

While we often rely on the reports given by law enforcement officials in control of a crime scene during a mass shooting, we let readers know what we can’t confirm, what we can and where and how we got the information.

We use the name of the suspect sparingly, and take special care to avoid it in headlines or social media posts.

We avoid descriptions that are cinematic, or lack attribution and sourcing.

We consult with our photo and standards editors before publishing graphic images or photographs of the suspect.

We focus on the victims’ and survivors’ experience of the shooting, while also reporting on the crime and the attacker.

We verify any information from a witness or victim found on social media and reach out to the person who posted it before we publish it.

We publish the suspect’s name when it is confirmed by authorities. But we do not want to give the person excessive prominence. There is evidence that media coverage can be a factor motivating future mass shootings.

We generally avoid publishing images in which the suspect is seen brandishing weapons. We will explain any ideology that might have influenced the gunman’s actions, but we do not typically publish or link to manifestoes that contain rationales for the attack.

Our reporters try to find out as much as they can about the suspect and approach anyone who might have crossed paths with the person. We supplement interviews with a thorough examination of public records. We want to give readers a sense of the human tragedy, so calling the loved ones of those who died in such circumstances is necessary.

How The Times uses visuals to investigate the news.

The Visual Investigations team at The New York Times uses satellite images, cellphone videos, social media posts and other visual elements to investigate and reconstruct news events like deadly police actions in the United States, oil smuggling in North Korea , and a devastating drone strike in Kabul .

These journalists employ traditional reporting methods as well, visiting the scene of an event and interviewing witnesses and survivors. But it is the digital investigative methods that set them apart and allow them to present a definitive account of the news.

When none of the police officers who raided Breonna Taylor’s home in Kentucky used body cameras, preventing a full understanding of what happened, the Visual Investigations team built a 3-D model of the scene and pieced together critical sequences of events to show how poor planning and shoddy police work led to a fatal outcome.

Malachy Browne, a senior story producer and a co-founder, in 2017, of the Visual Investigations team, spoke of the value of the team’s reporting when it earned them a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2020: “Together, they established — without a doubt — that Russian pilots had bombed four hospitals, a market street and a refugee camp . All in Syria. Killing dozens of people.”

How the team works

Using publicly available information, social media and on-the-ground reporting, team members collect videos and other documentary evidence of the event they’re investigating.

Reverse image searching that includes running still images through search engines helps confirm that a video is current. If the material has appeared online before, it will most likely show up in the search.

Comparing landmarks or matching structural damage (as in the war in Ukraine) in a video with satellite images or Google Streetview can help to pinpoint a precise area.

To verify when a video was filmed, team members check weather reports, measure the length of the sun’s shadows and check the metadata, or file information, of a video or photo. They also interview witnesses.

If they find that a video is taken out of context or is used to spread misinformation, they take to social media to warn others that the content is unreliable.

For more on the team’s process, read How The Times Verifies Eyewitness Videos by Christoph Koettl , who specializes in the analysis of satellite imagery, video and other visual evidence for The Times.

When The Times publishes an obscenity.

“In an age of ubiquitous vulgarity, it’s not very persuasive to argue that someone’s use of, say, the F word is deeply revealing.” Phil Corbett, standards editor

You may have seen an obscenity in the pages, digital or print, of The New York Times. But this should be rare. We maintain a steep threshold for vulgar words.

There are times, however, when publishing an offensive expression is necessary for a reader’s understanding of what is being reported. For example, The Times doesn’t shy away from reporting vulgarities uttered by powerful public figures and wielded in a public setting. If a reporter feels strongly that offensive language should be used in an article, editors from the Standards desk — and sometimes the masthead — will discuss the merits of using the language before agreeing to publish it.

Even when we decide to publish such language, we typically confine it to a single reference, and avoid using it in headlines, news alerts or social media posts.

Far more often, we say no to offensive language, as with profiles of colorful characters who pepper their interviews with four-letter words. In these cases, we don’t feel compelled to publish every word they say. Instead, we opt for a general description like “used a vulgar expression.” And we often avoid repeating a vulgarity used in the name of a website, business, movie or band.

(There is one section of The Times where you may encounter vulgar language somewhat more often: Books. This is because we run excerpts from the books we feature, and we don’t tamper with the author’s language.)

We realize that some readers may see our approach to vulgar language as dated or even a bit stuffy. To be clear, it’s not that we think our readers are delicate or easily shocked. But we think they value a restrained and thoughtful tone. Here’s a sentence from The Times’s stylebook entry on “obscenity, vulgarity, profanity,” which is more than 700 words long:

“The Times differentiates itself by taking a stand for civility in public discourse, sometimes at an acknowledged cost in the vividness of an article or two, and sometimes at the price of submitting to gibes.”

How The Times decides who gets an obituary.

“Some 155,000 people die between each day’s print version of The New York Times and the next — enough to fill Yankee Stadium three times over. On average, we publish obituaries on about three of them.” William McDonald, obituary editor

Here, William McDonald explains the process of a Times obituary :

We start with a paper-thin fraction of the total — the deaths we happen to hear about, usually by email or from a wire service or other news outlet — and then get choosy.

We’re exclusive in the extreme. We have to be. We have only so much space in the print newspaper, only so many hands to produce stories and only so many hours in the day to produce them, yet we have a very wide world to watch.

We focus on people who made a difference on a large stage — people who, we think, will command the broadest interest. If you made news in life, chances are your death is news, too.

We investigate, research and ask around before settling on our subjects.

Some might think our process presumptuous. Who, after all, anointed a handful of Times editors to stand by the roadside as a parade of humanity passes and single out this one, this one — but not that one — as worthy of being remembered?

The answer is that no one did, actually, because that is not precisely what we decide. We make no judgments, moral or otherwise, about human worth. What we do try to judge, however, is newsworthiness, and that’s a whole other standard.

There is no formula, scoring system or checklist. One thing to remember is that it is not our intent to honor the dead; we leave the tributes to the eulogists. We seek only to report deaths and to sum up lives, illuminating why, in our judgment, those lives were significant. The justification for the obituary is in the story it tells.

What does The New York Times own?

The New York Times Company owns The New York Times newspaper, website and app, and several other businesses:

Wirecutter , the recommendation service

The Athletic , the sports news site

New York Times Cooking

New York Times Games, which includes Spelling Bee and Wordle .

Each business operates independently and is sold as a separate subscription, or as part of a bundle with the news site and app. (Wordle is free.) The company makes most of its money from these subscriptions and derives significant revenue from advertisers.

The paper also produces several podcasts, including “The Daily,” which sells sponsorships and ads. In addition, the company owns the podcast producer Serial Productions , as well as Audm, a service that creates audio versions of articles for various publishers.

The Times also publishes The New York Times International Edition, The New York Times Magazine, T: The New York Times Style Magazine and The New York Times Book Review. They all operate within the newsroom and are led by the executive editor.

The company used to own other newspapers, including The Boston Globe, as well as radio and television stations. The Times no longer owns these properties, focusing instead on fewer, digital news brands. The company has made minority investments in other businesses and start-ups, and because The Times has no operational control over these companies, it hasn’t disclosed details of these investments.

The Times owns the majority of its headquarters building in New York City and a printing plant. Both generate revenue. The building rents office space to outside companies, and the plant sells printing services to other publishers.

As a public company, The Times trades under the ticker symbol NYT, but the business is controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family through a trust. The publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, is a fifth-generation member of the family.

Additional financial information can be found here .

How The Times handles and confirms breaking crime news.

“When big news breaks, we aim to get to the bottom of what occurred as quickly as we can, although we keep in mind that oftentimes initial reports from the scene can be off.” Marc Lacey, managing editor

The Times often relies on the reports given by law enforcement officials in control of a crime scene during a breaking news event. These initial reports can be valuable to readers, but they also can be incomplete and even inaccurate. We let readers know what we can’t confirm, what we can and where and how we got the information. Then we work aggressively to gather a wider range of perspectives on what happened and to verify the information through public records and interviews with witnesses and victims. We also search for video recordings of the incident and verify those before publishing.

What we keep in mind in the early stages of a breaking news event

Initial reports from law enforcement officials reflect their version of the events and are based on preliminary investigations.

Additional information may contradict these early reports.

Law enforcement officials may be withholding information for various reasons.

How we approach our coverage

We are cautious when reporting about potential motives, especially when officials are making early statements about the motivation behind an incident.

We are clear with readers about what questions are unanswered.

When new information contradicts earlier reports, we level with readers on what has changed and when.

Sometimes the reporting on these events involves both the crime and how the police respond to it. Law enforcement officials at times make it difficult for us to access information, interview witnesses or verify their findings.

In the case of George Floyd, the initial police report was titled, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” Video recorded by a bystander showed police officers pinning Mr. Floyd to the ground.

By being upfront with readers about what we know and don’t know, we provide as much detail as possible while acknowledging it isn’t the full picture.

Why The Times asks readers to contribute to our journalism.

“Inviting people to contribute to our reporting helps us grow the reach and scope of our journalism. — Beena Raghavendran, editor, digital storytelling and training

Our journalists are skilled at asking questions and listening. Their work is usually done with one source at a time — over the phone, in an email or text message or in person. But what if we asked dozens or even hundreds of people those same questions, all at once?

By using questionnaires we allow our journalists to broaden their reporting and give readers a chance to respond to specific questions, describe their experiences and share images or other media. Questionnaires can generate hundreds of responses, which are often used in a follow-up article. For example, when a poll showed that political discord was threatening friendships and family relationships, our call-out drew more than 500 responses, allowing us to share with readers the views of people from across the country who ranged in age from 17 to 74.

Questionnaires are an extension of our traditional reporting methods and a way to ensure that our journalism reflects the world we cover.

Here’s how they work and why you can trust us with your input

After we’ve formulated a questionnaire and published it, a team of reporters and editors works together to read through every response. We then reach out to a portion of those who respond (sometimes up to several dozen people) for follow-up conversations. These can include an interview to get a longer, more detailed response, or just the agreement that we can use the response they submitted.

These questionnaires appear as articles and are available to anyone with internet access. You don’t need to subscribe or even register on our site.

We require a full name and email to participate. We may use this information to contact you to confirm that you are who you say you are.

We use questionnaire responses only for journalistic purposes. We store all responses in a secure database, built and maintained in house and accessible only to our journalists. We never use the personal information you share for marketing or any other business communication.

Whether or not we use your response, we strive to acknowledge that we have received it. We make every effort to contact you before publishing any part of your submission.

We publish more than 100 questionnaires each year and encourage our journalists covering all topics to explore this approach to reporting.

How The Times covers elections.

Why and how we debunk election misinformation..

Our mission to bring you the truth through our journalism also includes warning you about the falsehoods. Misinformation flourished across social media in the final stretch before Election Day. We have several reporters tracking the trends and the shifting tactics employed by those spreading untruths. Here are five unfounded claims about voting in the midterm elections .

How we get live results on election night.

We report vote totals provided by The Associated Press, which collects results from states, counties and townships through a network of websites and more than 4,000 on-the-ground correspondents. To estimate how many votes remain to be counted, our team of data journalists and software engineers gathers vote tallies directly from the websites of election officials and compares these with our turnout expectations. Here’s more on how that works .

What you need to know about the needle.

The needle is an innovative forecasting tool that was created by The Times and debuted in 2016. It is intended to help you understand what the votes tallied so far suggest about possible winners in key contests, before the election is called. Here’s a deeper dive into how it works.

How we call winners on election night.

We rely on The Associated Press, which employs a team of analysts, researchers and race callers who have a deep understanding of the states where they declare winners. In some tightly contested races, we independently evaluate A.P. race calls before declaring a winner. Here’s more about how it works .

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TCOM 101 Critical Media Literacy -- Moore: What does peer-reviewed mean?

Peer-reviewed articles.

A peer-reviewed (or refereed) article has been read, evaluated, and approved for publication by scholars with expertise and knowledge related to the article’s contents.   Peer-reviewing helps insure that articles provide accurate, verifiable, and valuable contributions to a field of study.

  • The peer-review process is anonymous, to prevent personal biases and favoritism from affecting the outcomes.   Reviewers read manuscripts that omit the names of the author(s).   When the reviewers’ feedback is given to the author(s), the reviewers’ names are omitted.
  • Editors of journals select reviewers who are experts in the subjects addressed in the article.   Reviewers consider the clarity and validity of the research and whether it offers original and important knowledge to a particular field of study.

How do I know if an article is peer reviewed?

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  • Most scholarly journal articles also have symbols next to their record in the library catalog. 
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  • In general, book reviews, opinion pieces/editorials, and brief news articles are not peer-reviewed. 
  • Published peer-reviewed articles name their author(s) and provide details about how to verify the contents of the articles (such as footnotes and/or a list of “literature cited” or “references”).   If the article does not name its author(s), it is not peer-reviewed.
  • Some articles provide specific information about the peer-review process, such as dates of review and approval for publication.  
  • Some journals list peer-reviewed articles as “research” or “articles” in the table of contents to distinguish them from other materials like “news” or “book reviews”.

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Our podcast: What's the point of opinion journalism in the digital age?

Man on a train platform

Image: Canva / DisobeyArt

In this episode of our Future of Journalism podcast we look at the role of opinion writing within journalism in a world where many of us have many different ways of expressing our opinions and reading others' opinions, including on social media. We explore what makes good opinion journalism, the benefit to publishers and what progress needs to be made to ensure a diversity of opinions are heard.

Karen Attiah  is an award-winning Washington Post columnist, writing on international affairs, culture, and human rights issues. She worked previously at the Associated Press before joining the Post in 2014, first as a Digital Producer and later as Global Opinions Editor.

Rasmus Nielsen  is co-author of the Digital News Report and Director of the Reuters Institute and Professor of Political Communication at the University of Oxford. His work focuses on changes in the news media, political communication, and the role of digital technologies in both.

The podcast

Listen on  Spotify  |  Apple  |  Google

The transcript

The difference between opinion journalism and news reporting  | Journalistic values within opinion journalism  | News publishers and opinion journalism]  | The urgent need for diversity within opinion writing  | Sharing power among all opinion writers  | Challenging authority through opinion journalism

The difference between opinion journalism and news reporting  ↑

Rasmus: If a reader asked you to explain the difference between opinion journalism and news reporting, how would you respond to that question?

Karen: Yeah, it’s a good question and I think one that we, within our industry, need to remind ourselves of. So from  a very basic standpoint, news journalism often is supposed to be unbiased, it’s supposed to take in all of the different sides of a particular issue, and the reporter or writer isn’t supposed to clearly have a bias, or an opinion, or make value judgements on the information that they’re reporting. Often their job is to collect the opinions, and the viewpoints, and the analysis of others, and then put that together to basically, answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why, and all of that.

It’s others jobs to perhaps interpret what that news story, or negative information, or that new developments means in a broader context. But at a very nuts and bolts basic level, I think that’s what news reporting is. So when it comes to opinion journalism, I think opinion journalism – we are in that sphere, we are building upon what the news gathering is, and we see the news gathering, and then we have more freedom to put that into a broader context, right.

A reporter reports – “Man bites dog” – and that is just the facts, there is no value judgement about it – on the opinion journalism side we might say, “Man bites dog again, but here’s why this matters, or here’s why this doesn’t matter, or here’s why the increased rates of men biting dogs is why our society is about to collapse and the apocalypse” – you know what I mean, so that’s way beyond the bounds of what a news reporter is supposed to do.

So I think at a very basic level, reporters gather the news, curate it – they do frame it in a way but again, the personal judgement, the value judgements, the moral judgements by the author, by the reporter are left out, and opinion journalists are able to again, build off of that news gathering, and then add judgements, framing, context, illumination, and perhaps push it forward.

And give the space to even ask more questions perhaps, to build on that, but I believe that solid opinion journalism is built on solid news gathering, I think the two feed off of each other and we, as opinion journalists, couldn’t do what we do if it wasn’t for great news reporting.

Journalistic values and opinion journalism  ↑

Rasmus: Would it be fair to say that – what you describe is in part opinion writers doing the things that news reporters might turn to sources for, provide analysis that interprets the events of the day, provide moral judgement of the events of the day. That in a sense, these are journalists who are taking on a role that news reporters primarily would ask sources to place.

Karen: Yeah, I think that’s in some cases true, and news reporters are often turning to experts, to academics, to doctors, to specialists, to get their interpretation. Now I think what is interesting about opinion journalism today is that there is more space for even those experts, or academics, or analysts, to be able to more broadly explain their views, rather than just being reduced to a line or two in a quote, in a piece, right.

And also – and I think this is one thing that people tend to not appreciate, or understand – very often opinion journalists, particularly – I mean at The Washington Post , very often we were reporters, we do know how to gather information as well, and often we come to journalism – we’ve had our beats, we’ve had our news reporting beats, and often that’s how, over time, we’ve built up other sources and the networks.

And we’re not claiming expertise, at the end of the day, we are writers, but we do, over time, build up a certain well of knowledge in our particular areas of interest that we do draw upon. So this idea that opinion journalism – good opinion journalism, I’ll say, good opinion journalism also has an element of reporting – I do reporting for my columns.

My colleague – Catherine Rampell is a great reporter for The New York Times , and often, you see in her columns writing on the economy, that she is reporting and going out and seeking facts as well. It’s just that we are given the space to be able to organise the information differently, reframe, and add voice, add style, add frankly, a bit of personality perhaps. And then sometimes to make things a bit more human and relatable, so that people can digest the news a little easier.

News publishers and opinion journalism ↑

Rasmus: I think it would be really interesting to hear a bit more from you on one of the things you just highlighted, which is that with social media, with blogs and personal websites, with a bewildering array of newsletters, including from people who aren’t themselves journalists, but experts or other individuals. It sounds like a lot of what you describe opinion journalism offering is being offered in abundance by many other actors, including actors that journalists would often turn to as sources.

Whether because they’re experts, whether because they are authoritative institutions, whether they are people who have lived experience, and who are narrating that, and sharing that in public. If there is such an abundance of opinion, and so many different ways to share opinions and analysis with wide audiences, what is the value of opinion for news publishers specifically? Why would organisations that I think, often are committed to the idea of seeking truth and reporting it as the core of their identity and their purpose in the world – why is it important that they specifically invest also in opinion journalism?

Karen: Yeah look, one thing people have to realise in general, is that look, we are selling a product, we are a business, and opinion journalism is part of the journalism information product that an institution like the Post , or the Times is offering. I think that opinion journalism, again going back to the fact that I think great opinion journalism is often based on reporting, is based on still talking to people, still based on getting as close to the story as possible.

That there is an element of – what institutions provide is that I can say, well my story – my institution, first of all, gives me the financial runway to be able to do the reporting, to be able to – I have editors, copy editors, lines of basically quality control, that perhaps a lone blogger on a platform who’s also having to churn out a whole bunch of pieces, doesn’t have, two, or three, or four, or five different pairs of eyes on a particular piece, just doesn’t have.

So, I think part of what we’re offering is saying, “Look, we see this one opinion piece, and yes maybe it has my by-line on it, but really in reality maybe six people’s labour has gone into that. So, you can expect that there’s a certain level of quality in that, and I think that’s also true for news reporting as well, and so that is the advantage to being with a large institution.

Now, that said, I mean I think it’s also just a part of being part of a larger team helps you to sharpen your arguments – I see a lot of lazy, mediocre writing and thoughts, and plenty of scandals honestly, where people just say, “You know what, did anybody else look at that, who did they think would think that that was a good idea before hitting click, and publish?”

And you see a lot of that, I think a lot of that is probably why a lot of people start to lump us all in with that group, but honestly, I mean I think for me, one huge, huge, huge, huge advantage, and benefit, and frankly privilege that I recognise I have, is that there is so much that goes behind the scenes of making an opinion piece.

I’m constantly checked on my facts, checked on my sources, checked on "is this a fair characterisation?", "is this fair language to use?" and being able to bat those ideas around. So, I again, would say – I think maybe perhaps institutions maybe – I’ve talked about this with other colleagues who are kind of in the opinion journalism industry, perhaps we could do a better job of explaining to people just like – what’s the literal value of the product that they’re getting.

I think some news organisations have started adding – not just the author's by-line, and the reporter’s by-line, but edited by, credits, some I’ve seen – I’ve seen some places that even put a price tag of how much it cost to produce X, Y, Z piece of investigative journalism. I think perhaps we could do a little more to signal just how much work goes into producing journalism, whether it’s opinion or news.

That being said, I agree, I mean it does – there is a lot of just lazy, uninformed takes out there, and I think readers – I think there could be so much more to be done with trying to educate on what makes a valuable op-ed, whether it’s a valuable piece of journalism, what makes a persuasive essay. But again, I will say that – just because something is labelled as opinion journalism, it doesn’t mean – don’t forget that like journalism is actually happening, there is fact-checking, there should be fact-checking.

There should be a clear sense that that writer, that author, has at least acknowledged, or engaged with the other side of the argument, even if they don’t agree. And but yeah, a strong point of view and a certain voice, I think, to it – and it’s not easy to do, it’s not an easy thing to do it consistently, and do it well.

The need for diversity within opinion journalism  ↑

Rasmus: It’s interesting, I think one perhaps prejudiced criticism of some opinion journalism could be that it – cynically it could be interpreted as a cheap and predictable alternative to expensive and unpredictable original reporting. And that, in particular, if some of the opinion writers in a title hold very predictable points of view, that maybe align with the views of many of the core readers, that it’s an easy way to keep hard core loyal readers happy, by sort of giving them just more of the same a nd very few surprises and very little that would rub the readers the wrong way.

But what I hear you telling me is that really – what you see as the value here is that – unlike a sort of a situation in which, a private citizen Nielsen expresses his views online, which is entirely of his own account, and no one sort of stands by him, or invests in him, w hen Karen Attiah writes for The Washington Post , you know, it’s a job and you’re a professional, and you have the backing of an institution that invests in your work, and stands by your work, and has skin in the game. In the sense that – you have skin in the game in that your professional reputation is on the line, but the Post has skin in the game as well, in the sense that the Post is putting its name on what you publish – is that a fair interpretation of what you said?

Karen: Yeah absolutely, so then that leads to the bigger questions of who these institutions decide to invest in, and stand by, and I’m sure I have colleagues throughout the industry, who might not always agree with what I say. But I think the task is to – I’m on the younger side, I’m a daughter of West African immigrants, sometimes I get people who react to me and say, “I didn’t expect you to be at The Washington Post ” like that I don’t "look the part," which is very often an older white male, right.

So, I think one big advantage in the opinion sphere now, is that we are seeing so many more voices that traditionally were left out – not just left out, but actively excluded from these institutions, and from these pages – whose opinions were not sought after, whose opinions were – and viewpoints, and expertise, and knowledge were disregarded.

So, I think that – I think in many ways, especially as the US we’ve seen so much over the last several years with Black Lives Matter, with more push for social justice, climate justice, I think there’s a realisation that, “Hey, maybe we’ve been listening to the wrong people for a very long time.” And, as we have here in the States, people who were looking at what’s happening with say access to reproductive health, again back to the climate.

And kind of jokingly saying, “Wow, maybe we should have been listening to women of colour this whole time” and many of us are like, “You think? All right, great, let us have the mic.” I don’t know, there’s something to be said for multiple systems falling apart, and maybe only now indigenous people, black people, people of colour, are being given the mic because things seem like they’re falling apart.

But that’s a topic for another day – but again, I think that there is value to the fact that we have frankly a bit more democracy in the sense that there is room for more voices – does it mean that the discourse is as neat and organised as perhaps it used to be, when the same gatekeepers were in charge, no – I don’t particularly see that as a horribly bad thing. I can see that the gates are opening up ever so slightly, but I think that’s better than basically having one or two groups, the same voices perhaps, dominating our discourse.

Rasmus: I mean, I think it’s quite clear for anyone who takes the historical record seriously, and has ever bothered to do content analysis, that many news media historically have been produced by affluent, privileged, white men, like myself, about affluent, privileged, white men, like myself, and for affluent, privileged, white men, like myself in much of the world.

And in case one didn’t have enough white men in all the news, then you could also turn to the opinion pages, and get another serving of the same types of voices speaking up. And I mean, I think you offer a very hopeful, but perhaps also, a quite charitable interpretation of how much that has changed. I mean, you’ve spoken publicly often about the sort of push back against, what I think you called the interpreter class, the sort of foreign correspondents, and think tankers who are tasked with explaining foreign events to white Americans, essentially.

Sharing power among all opinion writers  ↑

Rasmus: How much progress do you feel that the American news industry, in this case, has made in giving the mic to other voices on the opinion pages, and the ones that are already so prominently featured in the daily news reporting?

Karen: Yeah – charitable is a good way to put it, like we have a – there is a lot of work to be done, a lot – there is still so much more to be done. And look, I think – and have said, and will keep saying – just having representation, it’s a step, but it’s not enough, I would absolutely like to see numbers of writers, of editors of colour, that represent more accurately what our national, or global demographic really is.

You know, I was speaking to somebody who is from the sort of more kind of international and diasporic community when I’m called a minority, I’m like, “Well, actually, in the scope of the world.”

But it’s about power right, it’s not about lack of intelligence, or expertise, it’s about frankly, white men holding the power and the keys to the kingdom of this discourse. So, it frankly – there’s evidence that actually in newsrooms that diversity has actually gotten worse over the last 10 to 20 years.

And so, now we’ve seen since the George Floyd protests, and all that – there have been a lot of promises, and a lot of rhetoric, a lot of restructuring, and hiring, which is great. At the same time, what needs to be seen, and what needs to happen, is that the power needs to be shared, frankly, that there needs to be white men who are willing to step back, give up power, take up a little less space.

So that those of us who also have knowledge, and also have skills and expertise, can help – and frankly, can help us do our jobs better. I don’t look at it as some sort of luxury, I don’t look at it as some sort of like nice thing to put on the brochure, I look at it – it’s a direct impact on the quality of our work. Frankly, news that’s produced only for and by like white rich men, I don’t think that’s a quality product because it doesn’t accurately serve, it doesn’t adequately serve the readership.

And to a certain extent, maybe some people are turning off their ears because they don’t see themselves represented in these pages, they don’t see people who’ve come from backgrounds, or they didn’t go to Ivy League schools. Or where they are first generation immigrants, they don’t see that, so they’re perhaps tired of the pages for a different reason than you are.

For the fact that they feel like these institutions aren’t even trying to cater to them, and so I think to an extent, that’s part of the huge problem is – in which, those of us who are in positions – I think for me, even for my writing, and my reporting, I hope that people can feel seen, those who come from perhaps the communities that I come from, and even some of the communities that I don’t come from, but that I know have been not served well.

That I hope – not that I hope, it’s my job again, kind of luxury, it’s my job to serve them as well. So, I think that that gets to a different sort of level of failures when it comes to journalism, and opinion journalism – who haven’t we served, who have we refused to serve all this time. And now that people are more aware and demanding to be served, it’s our jobs to do it.

Challenging authority through opinion journalism  ↑

Rasmus: I mean, I would just say that there are reams of research that document the problems you describe, that there are many parts of the public who don’t feel represented in the news media, who don’t feel that the news media understand their lived experience, who don’t feel that the news media respects and reflects people like them, and like their communities.

And I don’t think we can say that opinion journalism is entirely innocent of that. I mean, I know that about half a century ago John Oakes, who created the first op-ed page at The New York Times wrote, that he felt the newspaper most effectively fulfils its social and civic responsibilities by challenging authority, acting independently, and inviting dissent.

I mean, I suppose a cynic might say that in practise opinion journalism sometimes end up amplifying authority, giving a platform for those who already have power, and only presents dissent within the stale repartee of predictable left/right political positions. I mean, why do you think it’s been so difficult, if it is so, for opinion journalism to sort of pursue the principles that have been put so clearly by yourself, and other generations of journalists who care about the importance of journalism – of opinion in our craft?

Karen: Yeah, I think that there’s definitely again, a culture, a sort of dogma of journalism – it’s called this idea of both sides, left/right, black/white, and that somehow we’re supposed to pretend that we’re all neutral, that we have this view from nowhere, which honestly, given the power asymmetries in between communities, between various social groups, racial groups, it’s simply the ability to be neutral, and to stand back, is a luxury that only the privileged can afford.

And I think, if we look back through history, particularly civil rights history in the US, that there is a very strong tradition, for instance, of the black press, which not only covered lynchings, civil rights leaders, movements, and the white press did not. But also, used those pages to forcefully advocate for justice, so I think when we do talk about – I think it’s very easy to talk about journalism – big J, big tent journalism, without also understanding, and disentangling that, at least, again at least in this country there has always been a tradition of – advocacy of columnists who have used their platforms to, for instance, go into communities and report on them, and then advocate for the policies that those communities that they spent time with.

So I guess, again, I think that what we do need is, first of all, is within us as an industry, to clearly elucidate the standards that we have, should have. Sometimes I find myself thinking that it seems like news reporters also have this bad sense that opinion journalism is just us, you know, waking up one day, and just having thoughts, and putting them out there.

But at least, for me and the writers that I’ve worked with, it is a rigorous, it is still a rigorous process, and we are thinking about how do we help people digest, contextualise. I think a lot of readers, a lot of people are looking to understand how they should think about the news that’s coming their way.

How they should organise their thoughts and, me personally, I can only speak for myself, I often write in a way that says, “I don’t necessarily have all the answers, what I’m doing is, I too am processing the different sides of an event, of a certain person’s statements, and trying to make sense of it, and I’m inviting you as a reader along that journey with me. Eventually we’ll all figure it out together.”

That’s just personally my style, I think we as humans want to know what other humans think, we like to get inside their brains, but I think for me, I at least can promise to people who read me that I have done the homework, I have done as much reading, as much speaking to people as I possibly can, under deadline, mind you, I think people should appreciate that, we don’t often give ourselves two to three weeks to think about what we should think about the Facebook outage that happened yesterday.

Our jobs are to try to come up with something, usually pretty quickly, but yeah, we’re all a part of this process of kind of understanding, and processing, and organising, and making sense of this world, and we’re not always going to get it right. I have had to even had to revisit my positions on certain things in the past publicly, and being able to say, “You know what, I didn’t quite look at this correctly that time, here’s how I’ve evolved with it.”

And I wish more journalists had more courage to do that. I also think I wish there was more, as you said Rasmus, quality. I wish there was more courage frankly, to go against established dogma, to really challenge authority, to not just sit and take down without critiqued criticism of what people in power say. And I count people in power as not just politicians, but frankly, I think – I don’t know, when I wrote something criticising Beyonc é , I think I got a lot of messages of people asking whether or not I was like digitally OK, because they were so afraid of her fan base that goes – and silence is criticism.

So, I think our job, again, and not just as opinion journalists, but I really am guided by the fact that our job is to hold the power to account. And I would like to see more of that instead of, I think, what we’re seeing sometimes, which is cosying to power, being adjacent to power. And I get it, it’s attractive and it’s got a particular currency in a certain way of doing things in the journalism world.

But I think our job is, as the saying goes, to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted. And I think for opinion journalism, we have a special runway to be able to say, “Yeah, this person X of importance said this, or does this” but it’s not right, it’s not true, it’s harmful, and we also have the power to say, “This afflicted person, or afflicted community deserves support, deserves more power in their own minds.”

So, I am, you have to say, kind of black and white when it comes to that in how I choose stories, I’m not interested in amplifying – just sort of lazily amplifying folks who – who already have the power, or who already have the platform. What’s more interesting are those who don’t, and how to, I guess, trying to balance the power as much as we can, a little bit, if that all makes sense. As an opinion journalist if I can help tell the story of somebody whose story might not get out there because the city, or the school board, or the police union has more allies, more friends, more money,  If I can help balance that power a little bit through opinion journalism and tell people this person is who you should be paying attention to, then I feel like I’ve done my job.

Rasmus: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, I can’t think of a better place to end than with what is one of my personal favourite descriptions of the purpose of journalism, I’m so glad that you highlighted that. Our guest today was Karen Attiah, columnist at The Washington Post , made up of equal parts curiosity, courage, humility, and a commitment to reporting – Karen, thank you so much for joining.

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Journalism ethics.

  • Patrick Lee Plaisance Patrick Lee Plaisance Department of Journalism & Media Communication, Colorado State University
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.89
  • Published online: 09 June 2016

News workers—writers, editors, videographers, bloggers, photographers, designers—regularly confront questions of potential harms and conflicting values in the course of their work, and the field of journalism ethics concerns itself with standards of behavior and the quality of justifications used to defend controversial journalistic decisions. While journalism ethics, as with the philosophy of ethics in general, is less concerned with pronouncements of the “rightness” or “wrongness” of certain acts, it relies on longstanding notions of the public-service mission of journalism. However, informing the public and serving a “watchdog” function regularly require journalists to negotiate questions of privacy, autonomy, community engagement, and the potentially damaging consequences of providing information that individuals and governments would rather withhold.

As news organizations continue to search for successful business models to support journalistic work, ethics questions over conflicts of interest and content transparency (e.g., native advertising) have gained prominence. Media technology platforms that have served to democratize and decentralize the dissemination of news have underscored the debate about who, or what type of content, should be subjected to journalism ethics standards. Media ethics scholars, most of whom are from Western democracies, also are struggling to articulate the features of a “global” journalism ethics framework that emphasizes broad internationalist ideals yet accommodates cultural pluralism. This is particularly challenging given that the very idea of “press freedom” remains an alien one in many countries of the world, and the notion is explicitly included in the constitutions of only a few of the world’s democratic societies. The global trend toward recognizing and promoting press freedom is clear, but it is occurring at different rates in different countries. Other work in the field explores the factors on the individual, organizational, and societal levels that help or hinder journalists seeking to ensure that their work is defined by widely accepted virtues and ethical principles.

  • minimizing harm
  • public service
  • global ethics
  • newsgathering standards
  • framing effects
  • journalism culture
  • media technology


Potential harm posed by news accounts, the use of deceptive tactics to secure stories, and the increasing prevalence of infotainment content are all examples of journalism ethics issues. In addition to specific practices, the field of journalism ethics also addresses broader theoretical issues such as what roles the news media should play in society, whether the idea of patriotism poses a conflict of interest for journalists, and what might constitute a set of universal or global values to define good journalism across cultures. As a field, journalism ethics spans a wide range of issues from examination of specific case studies that raise questions of privacy and editorial independence, to abstract, normative arguments about how concepts from moral philosophy such as realism, relativism, and the Aristotelian notion of eudaimonia , or flourishing, should inform the work of journalism.

As the idea of journalism has evolved over the centuries, economic imperatives and the desire to be seen as performing “professionalized” work have motivated news publishers and journalists to embrace various standards of behavior. Depending on its cultural context, the idea of journalism emerged from commercial or political “hack” work, where newspapers were entertainment or party organs, to its role in most developed countries as an autonomous broker of information and “watchdog” of power centers on behalf of citizens. As a result, publishers, editors, and writers recognized the value of embracing standards of conduct to build integrity and commercial viability. Journalism ethics scholars and researchers have explored the philosophical underpinnings of these standards, the recurrent failures of news workers to meet them, and the moral obligations of journalism on a societal level.

Ethics and the Journalistic Mission

While ethics is conventionally understood as the work involved to discern “right” actions from wrong, it is more precisely a field of inquiry focused on examining the quality of our deliberations when dealing with moral dilemmas. It is about asking the “right” questions to best illuminate our duties and potential impacts on others. As such, ethics rarely provides clear answers about the best way to handle quandaries. Rather, ethics serves to help us highlight morally relevant issues and come up with optimal defensible decisions. This also describes the field of journalism ethics: while there are some clear rules and standards about how journalists should operate, more common are abstract statements of value that are intended to inform good behavior. Journalism ethics is a distinct subfield of media ethics in that it addresses behavior and dilemmas unique to the practices of gathering and presenting news content. It works within the context of journalism culture that assumes a critical public-service function of the work in a professional or semi-professional setting distinct from marketing or promotional media content. While journalism ethics scholarship draws from moral philosophy in its use of concepts such as autonomy, harm, and justice, it also represents an applied ethics approach, focusing as it often does on case studies and analyses of situations that pose dilemmas involving protection of journalistic credibility or potential harm to story subjects. Ethicists in media often call for a deontological approach in journalism practice—for journalists to be more mindful of these broad duties and less concerned about the consequences of providing the news to the public. True public service, they argue, requires journalists to report the news, as explosive, discomforting, or controversial as it may be, and let the chips fall where they may. The public must decide how that information will be utilized. These ethicists insist that journalists should resist paternalistic impulses and pressure to “sanitize” the news. Despite this general tendency, many journalism ethics codes and standards also include explicitly utilitarian concerns—a recognition that journalists must, of course, be mindful of the consequences of their work, particularly when it comes to potential harmful effects of some information. The tensions created by these two approaches often constitute the heart of many journalism ethics controversies, just as they do in other areas of applied ethics. A look at codes of ethics embraced by various journalistic organizations around the world illustrates how both approaches are invoked. These codes most often avoid clear declarations of prohibitions or required actions, and instead provide aspirational calls for journalists to report the news courageously, to be accountable to the public, and to minimize harm as much as possible. All of these imply a special covenant with the public and an obligation to act in ways that serve more than the commercial interests of individual journalists or news organizations. This includes, as one of the first publishers of the New York Times famously said, to report the news “without fear or favor”—in other words, without being cowed or intimidated by powerful people or institutions who might want to shape the news for their own interests, and also without any agenda to promote any single individual, cause, or policy in the course of reporting. In commercial media systems, the specter of corporate conflict of interest is a recurring journalism ethics issue: corporate media conglomerates use their journalism divisions to promote, in the guise of news content, products or services (such as a film or musical artist) produced by another division. Similarly, nationalized or party-owned news outlets subject to government or political control are typically perceived as lacking sufficient editorial autonomy to report news that may adversely impact those in power. Accountability in journalism most often refers to fulfilling a public-service role in the dissemination of news. It calls for journalists to respond quickly to questions about accuracy, and to acknowledge and correct mistakes. It also implies the notion that journalists wield considerable power in their ability to spotlight and scrutinize the behavior of others, and that they must use that power judiciously. Journalists, consequently, are expected to acknowledge their own ethical lapses, and to apply the same standards of behavior to themselves that they hold for news subjects. Most journalistic ethics codes also call for minimizing harm in the course of news work. Note that the call to minimize harm is distinct from imperatives to “prevent” or “avoid” harm, which are virtually non-existent in journalism. This semantic distinction is deliberate and reflects an acknowledgement that harmful effects are occasionally inevitable in the course of good journalism. Journalistic harm is most conventionally understood as materially “setting back” an important and legitimate “interest” of someone or some group that is the focus of news. Some such harms might be easily defended, such as the economic harm caused by an investigative report on the questionable or illegal practices of a company. Other such harms are more difficult to justify, such as the damage created to someone’s reputation by the disclosure of personal facts not considered very newsworthy. But harm can take many other forms. Ill-considered behavior might result in harm to the individual journalist’s reputation or that of his or her news organization. As with most other lines of work, the ethically questionable behavior of individual actors can easily reflect on—and harm—the profession or field as a whole, reducing trust. The public also can be harmed with misinformation and sensationalistic coverage or content that leaves people with an inaccurate understanding of a topic or issue. In most cases, journalists minimize potential harms by articulating the public value of published information and by considering withholding information that might be less important or relevant for a story. Journalists also consider story “play”—how images and graphics are used as well as story placement and prominence. More recently, journalism ethics discussions and scholarship have emphasized additional values. One is transparency, or being aboveboard in explaining news decisions. For example, recent efforts to revise the code of ethics of the Society for Professional Journalists in the United States resulted in adding the imperative that journalists “be transparent.” In some cases, this has meant inviting the public to observe, either personally or via streaming video, editorial meetings of news organizations. In others, it has meant allowing digital access to databases and other files that are used in building news stories. Another value that has gained in prominence in journalism ethics is community engagement. More journalistic organizations, particularly digital-only news sites, have expressed an obligation to move beyond mere reporting of the news and to make efforts to foster civic participation. At its most basic, this manifests itself through active story comment lines and forums to discuss stories and issues. But it also can include the sponsorship by news organizations of public meetings to address specific issues of concern as well as inviting audience members to “sponsor” an investigative effort, which a news organization, once receiving sufficient financial support, “pledges” to publish.

Journalism and Ethics Frameworks

Much work in journalism ethics is rooted in two predominant strains found in the philosophy of ethics. One is consequentialism , in which much of the moral weight of decisions is placed on the goodness of the outcome. In journalism, this is most clearly illustrated by the focus on possible harms resulting from newsgathering and publishing. The other predominant strain is deontology , or duty-based ethics. Many news outlets and journalism associations have embraced ethics codes that itemize the various duties that responsible journalists must carry out: duty to serve the public, duty to scrutinize centers of power, duty to be as transparent and accountable as possible. But the “third way” in ethics, virtue theory, has recently been gathering prominence in journalism practice as well. Rooted in the work of Aristotle, this approach focuses instead on identifying “virtues”—what it means to be courageous, charitable, honest, and so forth—and articulating how such virtues ought to be manifested in our lives if we are serious about the promotion of human “flourishing.” Insisting that journalists should “be virtuous” may sound like a less-than-useful platitude, but recognizing and living by virtues is far from simple. We would not still be discussing them thousands of years after Aristotle if it were. And as we have seen, ethics is rarely black and white. We must juggle competing claims, weigh various possible harms, articulate often multiple duties—all in the course of just one ethical question. In moral psychology (discussed later in this article), the idea of “moral commitment” is an important one—the degree to which individuals internalize moral principles, or virtues, into their very self-identities, so that those principles almost reflexively inform daily behavior. Moral “exemplars” are those among us who not only internalize these principles, but whose moral development has given them what might be called a highly developed skill of discrimination: the ability to make fine-grained distinctions among similar situations and to thoughtfully respond with just the right mix of appraisals, beliefs, and behavior that still reflect one’s broader moral commitments. This is the more character-driven approach that preoccupies virtue ethicists. One of them, Rosalind Hursthouse ( 1999 , p. 154), argued that the virtues “are not excellences of character, not traits that, by their very nature, make their possessors good and result in good conduct.” Rather, she said we must remember the “Aristotelian idea that each of the virtues involves practical wisdom, the ability to reason correctly about practical matters.” It is more of a “ground-up” approach, rather than the “top-down” approach of duty ethics or the “ends-focused” approach of consequentialism. And for a growing chorus of journalism ethics scholars, it may be the most useful one. “By building from our appreciation of ‘particular facts’ about how the media operate in the contemporary world, we have a more useful starting point for the tangled problems of media ethics than by relying on supposedly consensual norms, rights or obligations,” wrote media ethicist Nick Couldry ( 2013 , p. 42).

A notable example of virtue ethics applied to journalism is offered by media ethicist Sandra Borden. Borden draws on the work of philosopher Alistair MacIntyre, who argues that the ancient Greeks understood the notion of virtues as qualities that were critical to have if one were to perform well in his or her social roles. Aristotle described virtues not as ends in themselves, but as tools to achieve what he said should be our broader aim: “the good life,” or eudaimonia . As individuals, we not only contribute to our own well-being but help bring about such flourishing for all through specialized work that is often referred to as professional behavior. In his landmark book, After Virtue , MacIntyre ( 2007 , p. 187) called this type of work a practice :

By ‘practice’ I . . . mean any coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity through which goods internal to that form of activity are realized in the course of trying to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to, and partially definitive of, that form of activity, with the result that human powers to achieve excellence, and human conceptions of the end and good involved, are systematically extended.

Such practices, he argued, involve “standards of excellence and obedience to rules” that are aimed at attaining internal goods, or things that contribute to the common good regardless of who actually receives them. Media professionals, when deliberately informing their work with the “standards of excellence” that are attached to their “practices,” are able to deliver public goods such as providing information and analysis that enables the public to participate in a vigorous democratic life. As Borden ( 2007 , p. 16) summarized, “an occupation’s purpose provides it with moral justification, from a virtue perspective, if it can be integrated into a broader conception of what is good for humans.” In her book, Journalism as Practice , she made the compelling case that journalism should indeed be treated as a MacIntyrean practice . Another media ethicist, Victor Pickard ( 2011 , p. 76), eloquently described the “practice” of journalism having internal goods as its aim:

[Journalism] is an essential public service with social benefits that transcend its revenue stream. In its ideal form, journalism creates tremendous positive externalities. It serves as a watchdog over the powerful, covers crucial social issues, and provides a forum for diverse voices and viewpoints. As such, journalism functions as democracy’s critical infrastructure.

Implications of Specific Practices

Due to the ongoing nature and recurring tensions inherent in news work, several specific types of questions and controversies regularly surface. Yet it should be clear that ethics provides no clear-cut solution to cases of the same type; indeed, ethicists often argue for very different resolutions or optimal decisions among similar cases, depending on context and factors that may have more or less importance in different situations. It nonetheless is valuable to note several broad types of journalism ethics questions:

Conflict of interest. As noted previously, corporate and political conflicts of interest commonly raise questions of journalistic autonomy and adherence to ideals of public service. Conflict of interest can also occur at the individual level, where the interests or values of a single journalist might tempt him or her to compromise his or her news judgements. Most journalistic policies require news workers to treat potential appearances of conflict of interest as just as much a threat to credibility as actual conflicts, and, in cases of the latter, to take explicit steps to acknowledge the conflict and to either minimize or eliminate it. In most cases, journalists are expected to recuse themselves from activities that might pose a journalistic conflict. This includes policies that prohibit reporters covering politics from featuring political bumper stickers on their private vehicles.

Minimizing harm. Also as noted, the concept of harm can take many forms, and journalists are regularly called upon to justify their decisions that arguably cause harm to individuals or groups. Photojournalists in war zones and those covering sites of humanitarian tragedy have been challenged, for example, for their decisions to maintain their role as dispassionate witnesses to scenes of human suffering, rather than setting down their cameras and helping those in need. News organizations also have drawn criticism when disclosing secret or classified information that, in the course of informing the public, may arguably harm or undermine national interests.

Balancing privacy interests. Generally, theorists agree that everyone requires a degree of privacy to allow for self-development and to enable individuals to manage their multiple social roles. But with the value of privacy regularly being contested, journalists confront the dilemma of the extent to which respect for individual privacy should determine news coverage. While some scholars have argued that protecting privacy should never be considered the job of the journalist because of myriad and shifting definitions, others emphasize that journalism that respects privacy can encourage civic participation and engagement. Ethics arguments frequently flare over when disclosure of personal information is merited as well as when story subjects arguably seek to dodge accountability by invoking questionable or ill-informed privacy claims.

News frame effects. News content that may have negative effects on society frequently raises ethics questions. For example, psychologists have long warned of the “contagion” effect of coverage of suicide that focuses on the method of death and emotional state of the subject, which may prompt others in a similar emotional state to “copy” the story. Journalists have embraced media guidelines for responsible coverage of suicide as a social-health issue rather than as spectacle. The way an issue in the news is “framed” by story narratives, using factors such as sourcing, point of view, emphasis, and description, can leave audiences with a particular understanding of that issue. Framing of hot-button topics such as gun violence, gender roles, or obesity can serve to emphasize or favor one perspective over another and thus raise ethical questions.

Stereotypes. Relying on or perpetuating gender, racial, or ethnic stereotypes in news stories also can be considered a framing issue, and journalists must be mindful of inadvertent stereotyping. Expediency, narrative brevity, and the press of deadlines often discourage thoughtful considerations of the descriptions used for story subjects, be they local celebrities or police suspects. Research has suggested a consistent gender bias in news descriptions of physicality, emphasizing clothing items for women but not men, for example. Also, consistent focus on race often leaves skewed perceptions of crime patterns in the mind of the public.

Newsgathering techniques. What methods are justifiable in the collection of information valuable to the public? Classic what-ends-justify-the-means questions regularly confront journalists. While absolutist policies are rare, many news organizations refuse to pay for news or interviews, though tabloid outlets commonly do so. The concern is that sources with a financial incentive may be tempted to embellish, alter, or even fabricate facts and events, thereby undermining the journalistic enterprise. In some developing countries, such as Kenya, China, and India, money is regularly passed to individual journalists to curry favor and secure positive treatment. With celebrity periodicals, where exposure has created its own competitive market among a finite pool of public figures, payment for attention has become more removed from objective newsworthiness standards. The use of deceptive tactics, such as hidden cameras, also raises ethical questions. Several journalistic organizations have adopted policies stating that hidden cameras should be used only as a last resort and only when the information sought has high potential value for the public. Similar policies apply to journalists misrepresenting themselves to access information.

Graphic images. The publication of photos that depict gore, violence, and suffering regularly raises ethical questions for news journalists. Such questions become particularly heated during times of war or conflict, and when patriotic sentiments may bring added pressure to bear on journalists to depict the “right” story and avoid using images that audiences might perceive to be demoralizing. Claims that graphic images can be offensive, harmful, or unnecessary clash with concerns that avoiding such images risks sanitizing or propagandizing the news, which can easily undermine journalistic credibility. As with other journalistic ethics issues, the controversies over the publication of graphic images reflect diametric approaches within ethics itself: A utilitarian concern focused on minimizing harmful consequences of a decision versus a deontological ethos that calls for depicting the news with courage and relying on audiences to make their own decisions about the value of such images.

Ethics and Journalism Sociology

A variety of factors influences and even determines the behavior of journalists. The professional, cultural, and organizational environments in which journalists work have been referred to as their “moral ecology,” a recognition that news workers, like everyone else, do not operate in a self-defined vacuum, and that individual beliefs and predispositions are routinely subsumed by broader processes of socialization that can both help and hinder the exercise of ethical reasoning skills and moral autonomy. Thus, normative claims about what journalists should or should not do in the course of their work must rest not on assumptions that journalists are guided solely by personal beliefs but on an appreciation of these socialization processes. For example, journalists are criticized for advancing a “news agenda” reflecting their personal biases, but such claims often ignore how the broader constraints of the news decision-making process (e.g., the requirements of video production on deadline), organizational structure (e.g., the allocation of resources intended to produce one type of news content over another), or professional culture (e.g., the internal system of sanctions and rewards from editors based on impartiality of work) function as much greater influences. That moral ecology, of course, varies widely around the globe. Journalism sociology research over the years has identified broad “levels” or categories of factors that influence the production of news, generally distinguishing among individual-, organizational-, and societal-level spheres. For example, the ongoing “Worlds of Journalism” project examining news work across cultures has identified six levels of influence:

The individual level includes personal opinions, values, and demographic data as well as information on specific roles and occupational characteristics within a news organization.

The media routines level includes deadlines, production procedures, and standards and other constraints posed by newsgathering practices.

The organizational level includes technological imperatives, advertising or revenue considerations, and editorial decision-making.

The media structures level includes the economic model of news that entails profitability and resource allocation as realities in the relatively high costs of news production.

The systemic level includes national-level data such as regulatory policies, ideological assumptions, and degree of press freedoms.

Reference groups constitute a dimension that spans professional and personal domains to include competing news organizations, audiences, colleagues, friends, and family members.

In much research on journalism culture since the late 20th century, organizational- and societal-level factors have been found to be stronger influences on news content than individual-level factors, suggesting a hierarchical structure of influences in which the higher the level, the stronger the influence. However, no definitive model of influence has emerged.

Media Technology

The proliferation of online media has resulted in a host of new complications for journalists and news organizations. While traditional ethical concepts do not fundamentally change when information is delivered online, the ease and ubiquity of digital media provide new ways of interacting with audience members and story subjects. And everyone is tempted to do things he or she may not otherwise contemplate without the speed and ease of media technology. As one media ethics scholar noted, “Deceptive behavior in cyberspace is . . . not a new moral issue though it raises the problem of ‘moral distance’ with extra urgency . . . The speed of digital communication does not create new forms of immorality, but makes it possible to commit immoral acts so fast one hardly notices” ( 2000 , pp. 34–35). For example, the issue of corrections and retractions in digital journalism has received considerable attention.

Generally, many journalistic organizations, such as the Canadian Association of Journalists, have adopted policies against “unpublishing” erroneous reports from their archives and instead amending corrections to them. News organizations also have felt increasing pressure from story subjects who are embarrassed by content and argue that it is unfair for the news organizations to archive material long after it is no longer relevant. But allowing individuals to “scrub” the public record for their own interests raises deeper questions about the value of independently curated public information, and it also can threaten a key aspect of the journalistic mission, which is to document history. As one journalism educator has said, “Source remorse is not a reason to unpublish.” Unpublishing material also does little to eliminate the “echoes” that likely exist all over the Web on search engines, blogs, and other news sites. Better to correct or amend the existing archived material, which both preserves the integrity of the journalistic process and also fosters credibility through transparent action. For instance, editors at the Boston Globe cited the latter for their decision to correct, but not remove, a live blog post erroneously stating that an arrest had been made shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 . In rare cases, a news organization may consider unpublishing a story that is judged to be unethical or even be questionable legally, or when continued accessibility of an archived story may pose a real threat to someone’s well-being. In such cases, many policies urge journalists to look for evidence of concrete harm, such a doctor’s opinion, and for any such decisions to unpublish to be made by consensus, never leaving them to a single person.

The immediacy provided by media technology has enabled journalists to increase their relevance and value and to foster new forms of interaction with audiences. It also can encourage broad collaborative efforts with non-journalists whose perspectives and information can augment journalistic efforts. But that very immediacy can threaten to become deterministic —the value of now can displace ethical concerns of credibility, verification, and care. In the rush to be a part of the conversation and buzz on breaking stories, many news organizations have fallen victim to all stripes of hoaxes. “The development of social networks for real-time news and information, and the integration of social media content in the news media, creates tensions for a profession based on a discipline of verification,” said journalism technology scholar Alfred Hermida. News sites around the world, for example, circulated what turned out to be a fake photo of Osama Bin Laden’s body soon after his death in May 2011 . The immediacy of digital technology tempts journalists to post, share, and verify later—often at the cost of their long-term credibility. This risk of compromised integrity or even partiality is a serious concern reflected in the social media policies of most news organizations. The notion of technological determinism—that values emphasized by technology such as convenience tempt us to set aside other values such as respect, conscientiousness, and even safety—has resulted in abetting the perilous impulse in a competitive media system of getting it first rather than getting it right. Critic Evgeny Morozov ( 2011 , p. xvi) calls this “cyber-centrism,” or our tendency to “prioritize the tool over the environment.” The integration of social media also has required journalists to resist the temptation for informality. Several news organizations have adopted explicit policies that reinforce how traditional concerns of ethics as well as etiquette apply to social media. For example, the Associated Press cautions its writers about the peril residing in too-informal use of Twitter:

Twitter, in particular, can present some challenges—with a tight character count and no way to modulate your body language or the volume and tone of your voice, requests that are intended to be sensitive can come across as cold or even demanding. Think about how your tweet would come across if spoken with an angry voice, because that’s just how the recipient may hear it in his head.

Media technology has collapsed time and space in the exchange of information, but it also has arguably initiated a reformation of communication structures. No longer is the news media system a “closed” one in which journalists serve a central gatekeeping function; now we have an “open” system in which the sourcing and distribution of information has been radically democratized and globalized. As many theorists have said, we now have a networked society. Journalists and journalistic brands are now just single nodes among a constellation of voices and sources, all moving in a “shared” information space. This, writes scholar Ansgard Heinrich, “sketches the evolution of an interactive sphere that, at least in theory, fosters a greater level of interaction and exchange. Connection, interaction, and collaboration are the markers of this shift.” This transformation, however, poses many questions for journalism as it has been conventionally understood, in the form of print newspapers and broadcast networks. Who do you link to? How do you distinguish between activist bloggers and more dispassionate collaborators? Do these distinctions matter anymore? And in this new “network journalism,” how are journalists to act responsibly in what is now a global sphere? Scholars have begun insisting that journalists have a responsibility to be more cosmopolitan in their outlook and their framing of news, and to work harder to transcend the “nationalistic” lenses that have traditionally dominated news narratives. As Heinrich argues, “This nationally inward looking focus of news reporting, however, does not do justice to a world (1) where events in one corner of the world might affect the other; (2) where news stories produced by one outlet are not restricted in access to ‘local,’ i.e., national audiences; and (3) in which many voices roam through the spheres of a digitally connected world that might provide an alternative take on a news story.” Globally responsible journalists, then, must break out of the tradition of foreign correspondent narratives that focus almost exclusively on elite or official sources and on how events impact a particular nation, instead engaging in the multitude of activist and “unofficial” sources that provide often competing narratives.

Global Journalism Ethics Theorizing

Much journalism ethics theorizing since the end of the 20th century has been preoccupied with the desire to establish viable ethical norms that transcend cultural boundaries and reflect what one researcher referred to as an empirical trend toward “ever-increasing globalization of journalism standards.” Some of this work calls for a media system that relies on a framework of international human rights, or a general veneration of human life, to guide news work regardless of culture. Others have called for a “modified contractualist” approach that would respect differing cultural manifestations of broad principles. Still others insist that any such global framework reject Enlightenment assumptions of the primacy of individual rights and rationality. Too often, claims of journalism standards of behavior remain rooted in Western cultural assumptions and are imperialistically imposed onto non-Western cultures in which the values of social stability and collective well-being replace individualistic models. As one scholar observed, “It is a global reality that the common concerns we have as human beings coexist with differences of ethical thinking and priorities in different cultures. This coexistence of common ground and different places plays out in the work of journalists across the world.” Notwithstanding the rarity with which the value of press freedom is enshrined in Western media systems, American and European scholars and journalistic organizations continue to dominate journalism ethics discourse. As a result, that discourse is focused on protecting journalistic functions with the rule of law and insulating them from power and identity politics. The European Federation of Journalists, for example, released a report in 2015 examining the effects of chronic corruption in 18 countries, noting how “media managers are doing ‘deals’ with advertisers to carry paid-for material disguised as news, how editors are being bribed by politicians or corporate managers and how this whole process makes it increasingly difficult to separate journalism from propaganda from public relations.” But voices from other parts of the world are joining the discourse on press freedom and journalism ethics. Many sociology and philosophy scholars on the African continent have offered critiques of postcolonial systems to promote journalism institutions (e.g., Kasoma, 1996 ; Wasserman, 2006 ). In 2015 , the Journal of Media Ethics published a special issue devoted to the notion of ubuntu as a guiding framework for media practice—the idea common among several south African cultures that individual flourishing is possible only through community belonging and social identity. The widespread practice of journalists accepting gifts and cash in exchange for favorable treatment—called “brown-envelope” journalism in Nigeria and “red-envelope” journalism in China—is receiving an increased amount of attention by journalism sociology scholars around the world (Xu, 2016 ). The practice in China was an intrinsic part of the commercialization of the media system in China beginning in the 1980s, and was actually initiated by foreign companies to entice journalists to attend press conferences (Zhao, 1998 ).

Cultural diversity notwithstanding, research worldwide has identified several key areas and concepts that concern journalists across cultures. These include truth-telling, accuracy, factualness, objectivity, credibility, balance, verification, independence, fairness, accountability, honesty, and respect. Of course, many of these overlap, and they can apply to one or more of the influence levels referred to previously. But many journalism ethics scholars agree that these are not enough. It is shared moral principles, rather than agreed-upon practices, that can bind responsible journalists around the world in ethical solidarity. As scholar Clifford Christians ( 2010 , p. 6) argues:

Without a defensible conception of the good, our practices are arbitrary. How can we condemn violent practices such as suicide bombings in the name of jihad except through widely accepted principles? We are stunned at the blatant greed and plundering of the earth, but without norms we are only elitists and hot-tempered moralists. Conflicts among people, communities, and nations need principles other than their own for their resolution. A credible ethics, as a minimum, must be transnational in character.

Christians and others argue that such a global media ethic cannot start with conventional morality that assumes a superior rationality, such as that of Kant. Instead, it must begin with a much more “naturalistic” principle: universal human solidarity, which prioritizes human dignity, truth, and nonviolence, all of which are grounded in the notion of the sacredness of life. In addition to this notion, scholars point to the fundamentally social reality of human existence—that despite the predominance of Western individualism, our realities and even our identities are arguably rooted in interaction and community belonging. In this reality, communication is central, as it is through exchange that we understand ourselves and we see the importance of “the Other”—individuals we encounter who may not share our culture or perspective, but whose existence requires respect and validation. Again, Christians, drawing on a long line of earlier philosophers, explains: “Communication is not the transference of knowledge but a dialogic encounter of subjects creating it together.” This leads us to a framework of “anthropological realism” that provides a hopeful basis for a global media ethic. It is anthropological in nature because it is rooted in the realities of human existence rather than claims about any rationalistic ideals. It is realist in that it insists morality has an explicit character that exists independently of our perceptions and judgements. For the moral realist, moral claims of rightness or wrongness are true regardless of any beliefs an individual might have about them. The casual observer, however, might see an immediate problem with such a framework, a problem wrestled with by philosophers since antiquity: what exactly is the nature of the “good” and how do we apprehend it? Is there more to a moral claim than a sort of intuition that we just know right from wrong? And how might journalists articulate this framework of moral realism in the judgements they make about news, about ethnic conflict, about graphic images? In journalism ethics scholarship, these debates continue.

Moral Psychology Research

Broad-brushed, deductive theorizing such as that discussed previously is one active area of journalism ethics research. But other researchers are increasingly acknowledging the need for more empirical work that seeks to better understand ethical reasoning processes on the ground by bringing long-established psychology measurements to bear. This moral psychology research draws on important philosophical concepts as well as instruments that assess beliefs, attitudes, and dispositions to explore possible patterns and relationships among factors in ethical decision-making. Recent cross-cultural research involving interviewing journalists around the globe, led by German researcher Thomas Hanitzsch, suggests that they perceive notions of objectivity, accuracy, and truth-telling as “core elements” of a widely accepted ethic for journalism practice. Journalists, of course, have been socialized into these norms through formal journalism education as well as through immersion in the newsroom culture, with its internal system of sanctions and rewards by peers and superiors based on the perceived quality of one’s work. Other researchers emphasize that social psychological processes resulting in bias perceptions, such as social validation and attitude stabilization, also must be recognized as evident in the work of journalists.

Moral development theory provides several models to help explain how individuals’ moral agency and sense of morality evolve over the course of a lifetime. The most widely cited moral development theory is that of Lawrence Kohlberg, who has argued that our moral development is tied largely to two factors. One is the degree to which we internalize moral principles that apply to all and move away from relativistic thinking—the notion that moral decisions regarding what is “right” are strictly “relative” to one’s own personal values rather than any broader moral principles. The other, closely related to the first, is the sophistication and scope of our understanding of the concept of justice. Our moral development, Kohlberg argues, can be assessed as existing in one of six stages. Based on Kohlberg’s theory, researchers have refined and widely used a survey instrument that measures one’s moral reasoning skills based on these two factors. By assessing the frequency with which respondents draw on higher-order justifications when presented with a moral dilemma, the Defining Issues Test (DIT) has enabled researchers to assess the moral-reasoning skills of various populations such as professional groups. Media researchers Lee Wilkins and Renita Coleman pioneered the application of the DIT to journalists and other media workers, concluding that, because journalists routinely encountered ethical questions in the course of their work, their moral reasoning skills were relatively high compared with workers in other professions.

Another moral psychology instrument that has proven useful in journalism ethics research is the Ethics Position Questionnaire (EPQ) developed by Donelson Forsyth. Because people’s responses to ethical dilemmas are influenced by their worldviews, understanding the basic elements of their outlooks can illuminate the thrust of their ethical judgements. Two such basic elements are key to individuals’ “ethical ideologies.” One is how idealistic they are—that is, to what extent are they optimistic about the actions of others, and to what extent are they concerned about minimizing harm or are more accepting of harmful effects if positive consequences are believed to outweigh them. Another basic element is how relativistic they are—whether they tend to make judgements based primarily on their own interests and perceptions of “rightness” that are relative to their own standing or views, or whether they tend to draw on broader, universal principles to decide what’s ethically justifiable. Using some key items from the Forsyth instrument, the “Worlds of Journalism” project found that most journalists in the 20 countries surveyed tend to embrace universal principles that should be followed regardless of situation and context. They also agreed on the importance of avoiding questionable methods of reporting, even if this means not getting the story. Much less approval—although the extent of it varied between countries—could be found regarding how much personal latitude journalists should have in solving these problems. This desire for flexibility reflects the longstanding tension in ethics between desirable ends and questionable means, as discussed. Many journalists think that in certain situations, some harm to others would be justified if the result supports a greater public good. News workers in Western countries are more likely to disapprove of a contextual and situational ethics. This attitude, however, also exists in non-Western contexts, though less strongly. Chinese, Pakistani, and Russian journalists, on the other hand, tend to be most open to situational ethical practices. Consistent with this result, interviewees in Western contexts showed little support for the idea that journalists should be allowed to set their own individual ethical standards. Similarities between journalists from Western countries also exist with regard to idealism. Although journalists in all countries agreed on the view that questionable methods of reporting should be avoided, those working in Western contexts appreciate this idea more than their colleagues in a developmental and transitional environment. Regarding the acceptance of harmful consequences of reporting for the sake of a greater public good, journalists in most Western countries—but also their colleagues in Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, and Uganda—tend to keep all options on the table. Journalists in Bulgaria, Chile, China, Egypt, Romania, and Russia, on the other hand, exhibit a greater willingness to accept harmful consequences in the course of newsgathering and reporting.

In a study of journalism “exemplars” in the United States—reporters and editors widely respected for their accomplishments and ethical leadership—media ethicist Patrick Plaisance used both the Defining Issues Test and the Ethics Position Questionnaire, along with several other moral psychology instruments. Regarding the journalism exemplars’ moral reasoning, Plaisance found their DIT scores were indeed higher than that of journalists on average. Regarding the EPQ, the journalism exemplars uniformly rejected relativistic thinking as well. There was also a negative relationship between the journalism exemplars’ DIT scores and their degree of idealistic thinking. That is, the higher the exemplars score on the Defining Issues Test, the less they appear to embrace idealistic thinking. This may first appear counterintuitive; it might stand to reason that people with higher DIT scores, associated as they are with greater application of universal principles in moral judgements, also would be rather idealistic in their outlooks. However, it is important to remember that all of the exemplars scored low in relativistic thinking; so the issue is not that the exemplars would be more or less Machiavellian depending on their DIT scores, but to what degree their belief in universal moral standards, and perhaps primarily their concern for harming others, could be applied rigidly or not. The negative correlation with moral-reasoning scores, then, arguably reinforces the suggestion of comparatively greater moral development in that exemplars with the higher DIT scores exhibit a greater ability to adapt their principles to best fit the often complex range of contingencies in which they find themselves having to work. In other words, they are too wise to believe they can insist on a rigid application of moral rules that can fit all circumstances and have become more adept at making the kind of carefully considered, fine-grained distinctions frequently found among moral exemplars of all walks of life.

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What is Journalism? 7 Answers for Future Journalists

What is Journalism? 7 Answers for Future Journalists

Most of us know the Five Ws (and H) that are otherwise known as reporters’ questions. Did you know WHO developed them? We give credit to an English rhetorician named Thomas Wilson (1524-1581). He introduced the method in 1560, calling them the “seven circumstances” of medieval rhetoric. In his version, the seven questions were who, what, where, by what or whose help did events occur. Next are why, how, and when. Combined, these questions form the foundation of journalism.

In the centuries since, journalism has developed into both an art form as well as a formal profession. What is Journalism? It’s far more than just reporting. Being a journalist means embracing an identity that involves a specific set of values that journalists and reporters have clung to through every historical, political, and cultural change since the Middle Ages.

WHAT Is Journalism?

As a discipline, Journalism is the gathering, preparation, and distribution of news, features, and commentary. Delivery platforms are print as well as digital media. Printed media includes traditional newspapers, books, and magazines. Electronic media consists of a myriad of outlets, including blogs, podcasts, social media, radio, and television.

In all elective democracies, journalism is a professional identity for journalists who identify their role within society as an exclusive one. In the United States and other democratic nations, journalists have vehemently defended their profession, ethics, and ideology.

WHEN Does Journalism Support Democracy?

The link between democratic societies and journalism generates more questions about the nature of the profession. It also makes you wonder how and why the definition of journalism changes along with history. Journalism aids in the democratic process by reporting political and societal events. Through reporting, citizens understand current campaign happenings, debate results, and voting activities. In doing so, they also hold the government accountable.

Journalists also force citizens and the government alike to address public interest issues that the society would otherwise not see. Such issues become detrimental to freedom and democracy when we fail to address them. Thus, the media helps society to evolve and balance itself. At the local level, it creates public forums, disseminates information to citizens, and acts as a conduit of sorts for processes that healthy societies need to thrive.

All this works together to create tolerances that, in turn, foster cultural diversity. By keeping the people informed, journalism keeps people united and aligned.

WHERE Do We See the Cultural Impact of Journalism?

Aside from gathering and reporting information, Journalism impacts culture because it interacts with the arts and other disciplines. Whatever art, literature, music, or other cultural event is happening, media brings it to the people’s attention. Through event calendars, reviews, editorials, and so on, people are aware of performances, rituals, and creative offerings that would otherwise go unnoticed. This is how journalism contributes to the culture, adding to the greater good.

WHEN Did the Definition of Journalism Change?

The values and ideology within the field of Journalism adapt to cultural and technological change. After all, you now know that Journalism is far more than just obtaining and delivering news. American society grows more multicultural and diverse each year, let alone each decade. Also, the explosion of multimedia has challenged the very definition of Journalism.

The Twentieth Century changed more than just the delivery platforms for distributing the news. Through radio and television news, journalists could report the news instantly. No longer did we have to wait for the morning headlines. Listeners and viewers could tune into scheduled broadcasts. Emerging news stories were reported through emergency broadcasts.

Journalism and Social Media

With the advent of the Internet came the rise of social media. Legitimate as well as non-credible (“ yellow journalism ” and fake news) stories could be instantaneously shared with millions of people across social networks. Because like-minded people tend to post images and stories of their related interests, bias is created.

Also, the established integrity that journalists and investigative reporters embrace is called into question as more and more online sites and publications pop up without established credibility. Many feel that multimedia platforms are chiseling away at the traditional expectation that a professional journalist meticulously checks all the facts before publishing. On the other hand, the race to break a story first puts incredible pressure on reporters. Being the first to deliver is itself another form of credibility that, ironically, threatens the integrity of the profession.

One can post a fake news story with relative ease, and this poses a threat to the profession. Some go as far as to say that it threatens a free press and democracy itself.

What do you think? Where does Facebook and Twitter fit into your understanding of Journalism? Share your opinion in the comments!

WHY Consider a Career in Journalism?

Journalism is a challenging career, to say the least. However, it’s also a career that carries a great deal of personal integrity and professional identity. If you’re naturally inquisitive, or a storyteller by nature, you’re primed for a career as a reporter.

Successful reporters find themselves sent to places unknown. Depending on your specialty, you may even travel to unstable places. Or, you may be sent on an assignment with little notice. If all this seems exciting rather than upsetting, then Journalism may indeed be for you.

Journalists spend the majority of their time talking with people. If you’re good at interviewing and establishing the rapport needed to get answers, then you have a skill worth developing. Gathering sources and other information means you’ll be moving throughout the day. So, if your ideal job is NOT in a cubicle for 8.5 hours a day, remember that a journalist’s desk is almost always unoccupied.

Journalism requires you to be passionate about your work. It’s demanding but rewarding when you think about the integrity you’re pouring into every word of every article.

HOW Do I Become a Journalist?

Aside from the characteristics we discussed in the previous section, you do need a few other things to become a journalist. First, you need writing experience, even if it’s just practice. You’ll also need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

Once you are in the field, understand that most of the work falls under contracting and freelance. If you’re willing to move to a media hub like New York City, Atlanta, or Washington DC, you’re more likely to find a salaried position. A word of warning, however, reporter jobs for print publications are shrinking in number.

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Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

Review Reflects on Truth, Facts in Journalism

The Oberlin Review, more than anything, is dedicated to publishing information and ideas that are relevant, accessible, and most importantly, factual. We are a newspaper — we seek to publish the truth, to get to the bottom of issues on campus and in the community, and to inform our readers of Oberlin’s happenings. We are an outlet for students, community members, alums, parents, professors, and administrators. And in our 150th year of publication, we realize that the Review is an archive — we are writing history.  

  But what is the truth? And how do we know that it is so? With mistrust and misinformation rampant in the media and bias ubiquitous among writers and readers, how do we as journalists — student journalists — go about deciphering fact from opinion? A fact is, in its dictionary definition, something that is known or proven to be true. It is often supposed to reflect our everyday realities and the state of things as they exist. Opinion pieces and letters, while they are not news articles and instead express a subjective view of events or facts, must still be based in fact. And writers should not express these facts in a misleading way, as this depletes the integrity of the opinion itself and could potentially misinform readers.     This distinction between fact and opinion within the framework of an opinion piece or letter to the editor is exactly the crisis publications like the Review face today. The 2023 Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism states that 40 percent of the public says that they trust most news most of the time, while 36 percent say they actively avoid it. Publications worldwide, including the Review, have to reconcile with the idea that the “truth” and the “facts” are often up for debate and have the potential to hurt readership.  

While the Review is committed to publishing the truth through our production framework — each article is fact-checked rigorously by our production editors — the truth seems to be becoming harder to define, specifically in Opinions submissions. The Review encourages students, alumni, community members, and others to submit articles based on their perspectives to our Opinions section. Even though these are published in a section without traditional reporting, they are still fact-checked to prove that the author’s perspective is based on proven fact. To do this, we ask writers to provide sources linked in their submissions so that our editors can verify the facts that they use to support their opinion or argument.  

  We often find, however, that the sources of fact themselves seem to be biased or erroneous. Reputable publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post have published misinformation and conflicting reports about the Israel–Palestine conflict. Just last week, the Review issued a correction for a misedited quote that had originally appeared in the Times. Other sources and publications are linked to biased organizations that obscure the truth or promote a certain narrative.  

We have also tried to rely on international organizations such as the United Nations or the International Court of Justice to stay consistent.  

  However, those organizations often use terminology that leave the facts up to the interpretation of those who use them. There is also the added effect that many of these organizations come from a Western framework and history, leaving many of our writers distrustful of their verdicts and judgments.  

The reality is that many writers, as well as the entirety of the Review staff, do not hold law degrees — or even bachelor’s degrees, for that matter — and this language can be challenging to interpret as fact. Even the author’s language in an Opinions article can leave our editors at a loss. Language that frames opinion as fact can be misleading to readers, but it does not necessarily seem problematic to our writers, as it is, after all, their opinion. Asking writers to clarify their wording seems tedious, but it is important to the Editorial Board that what is opinion is presented as opinion and what is fact is presented as fact.  

So, how do we fact-check our articles in a world where fact is relative and changes from source to source, especially regarding articles on changing and contentious world events?  

  Unfortunately, it means that there will always be a source disputing the ones that we publish in our articles and, in turn, that there will always be an unhappy reader. With that being said, this Editorial Board encourages all readers to engage with us in constructive and intellectual discourse by submitting letters to the editor, writing opinion pieces of your own, or emailing us: the goal of the Review’s Opinion section is, after all, to provide a space for Oberlin’s voices.  

We never want to change anyone’s words; we often suggest revision if the argument can be reworded for clarity or if information is not accurate. We understand that for some, these articles are very special and expressive, and we wish to honor the style and perspective of every writer.  

  As the editorial staff, we spend hours in and outside the office communicating with dozens of writers with different pieces, opinions, and facts. Every day is spent with our production team, poring over each detail to make sure that they are factual and communicating with writers about the changes we make.  

This process is done to every article without fault, and writers should take comfort in knowing that we subject our pieces to the same rigorous fact-checking as everyone else. But that becomes less and less of a comfort when faced with the terrible truth that there is no one truth.  

Editorials are the responsibility of the Review Editorial Board — the Editors-in-Chief, Managing Editor, and Opinions Editors — and do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the Review .

  • publication

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Established 1874.

Columbia Journalism Review

How much press are you worth, when someone goes missing in america, the amount of press their case receives varies by their race, their sex, and their location - a systematic bias often termed “missing white woman syndrome” ., this website calculates your press value based on current reporting in america, to expose this bias and to advocate for change., what's your age.

The older you are, the less chance you have of being covered in the news.

What's your gender?

Prefer not to say

Data shows that men have a lower chance of being reported on by the press.

Where do you live?

People in urban areas have a higher chance of being reported on than people in rural areas.

What's your ethnicity?


Middle Eastern/ North African

Black/ African American

Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander


Indigenous American/ Alaska Native

Data shows that White people have the highest chance of being covered in the press, with Black and Hispanic people having the lowest.

The results you are about to see are drawn from current reporting on missing people in the US


About AreYouPressworthy.com

What is Columbia Journalism Review?

Columbia Journalism Review is a magazine, published bi-annually by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Globally, this publication is considered the most respected voice in press analysis, shaping the ideas that make media leaders and journalists smarter about their work, and more informed about their industry.

Historically, Columbia Journalism Review has acted as a media watchdog and advocate - a role that is critical in today’s world and fitting for an organization dedicated to being the intellectual leader in the rapidly changing world of journalism.

Our current focus? Media bias surrounding coverage of missing persons.

The number of people who know of a person’s disappearance has a major impact on their chances of being found.

Unfortunately, the amount of coverage a missing person receives is often influenced by various demographic information such as race, age, sex, and even geographic location. In other words, who you are and what you look like can determine if your case dominates news headlines for months or never makes an appearance at all.

Columbia Journalism Review believes it's time for change. Who you are and what you look like should not determine your likelihood of being found.

Methodology of this platform?

Our analysis and model is based on a representative sample of 3,630 news stories about missing persons out of 19,561 collected by Meltwater Jan-Nov 2021. Of this sample, 2,383 stories concerned one or more specific missing individuals, covering 735 unique missing persons who were identified and categorized by age, gender, race / ethnicity, and geography. Missing persons were then cross-referenced with the NAMUS database for the same period. Meltwater identified the publisher of the story, the potential reach of that news outlet, and social sharing for each story.

For questions, please contact [email protected]

How much coverage are you worth?

By Kyle Pope

In 2004, speaking at a panel discussion, the late Gwen Ifill characterized the media’s approach to covering people who have gone missing as “missing white woman syndrome.” “If there’s a missing white woman, you’re going to cover that, every day,” Ifill said, to little notice at the time.

In the two decades since, the term has attracted wider attention, as well as academic studies and media critiques. Shortly after Ifill’s comments, Jon Stewart claimed, satirically, to have come up with an algorithm dictating media coverage of missing people: Family Income x (Abductee Cuteness ÷ Skin Color)2 + Length of Abduction x Media Savvy of Grieving Parents3.

Ifill’s term has ebbed and flowed with the headlines; its most recent resurgence came in 2021, following the disappearance of Gabby Petito while on a road trip with her boyfriend.

What doesn’t change is the media’s insistence on reverting to the same coverage habits, 20 years after Ifill first called it out. The sad fact remains that in the United States, white people, particularly white women, garner much more media coverage when they go missing than any other group, significantly out of proportion to the number of cases. That means that time and again, media outlets are making judgments –often misguided judgments, not informed by data – about which missing persons cases to cover and which to ignore. And those coverage decisions have a significant influence on whether those people are found. In effect, newsrooms are making decisions on whose lives are worthy of attention– almost always resulting in coverage that is unrepresentative of the problem. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a database run by the US Department of Justice to track people who go missing in the country. Its online resource, under the headline “The Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster,” tracks more than 600,000 people who go missing in the United States every year. While many of them are quickly found, tens of thousands are not. About 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year. According to the Black and Missing Foundation, about 38 percent of people who go missing in the country are Black, much higher than the US Black population of about 14 percent. Cases involving Native Americans show similar disparities.

Earlier this year, the Columbia Journalism Review set out to understand the scope of the problem. Working with the ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day/New York, our researchers sampled 3,600 articles about missing people that appeared last year, between January and November of 2021. We looked only at US news organizations, including TV, radio, newspapers, and online outlets. We then matched that sample with age, gender, and race classifiers tracked by NamUS, matching missing persons mentioned in the coverage to the data provided by NamUS.

What we found shows how little has changed in the last two decades. If you’re young, white, female, and a resident of a big city, the coverage you’d receive if you went missing is vastly out of proportion.

For example, a white young adult woman who is reported missing in New York could be covered in 67 news stories, according to the CJR data, but a Latino male of the same age would appear in only 17. A middle-aged Black man who goes missing would be expected to receive four or fewer mentions in the press. A Black man who went missing in St. Louis, for instance, would only garner 12 news stories, while a young white woman from the same town would attract 10 times the media coverage.

To highlight the scale of the problem, CJR has developed a tool to test your own newsworthiness. By entering basic demographic data (none of which is saved by CJR) at www.areyoupressworthy.com , you can calculate your own worth, according to the American press.

Our hope is to force change from readers and viewers. Two decades of op-eds and research have not shifted ingrained newsroom habits; reporters continue to revert to skewed coverage, ignoring a much bigger story.

Go to www.areyoupressworthy.com . Share your findings on social media. And put pressure on your local newsroom when you see gaps in the coverage of your own community, so we won’t be back having the same conversation 20 years from now.

Read more from CJR here.

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Texas’s Social-Media Law Is Dangerous. Striking It Down Could Be Worse.

Beware giving Big Tech a constitutional right to avoid regulation.

The Supreme Court building with tech companies' logos between the pillars

Listen to this article

Produced by ElevenLabs and NOA, News Over Audio, using AI narration.

As a progressive legal scholar and activist, I never would have expected to end up on the same side as Greg Abbott, the conservative governor of Texas, in a Supreme Court dispute. But a pair of cases being argued next week have scrambled traditional ideological alliances.

The arguments concern laws in Texas and Florida, passed in 2021, that if allowed to go into effect would largely prevent the biggest social-media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, X (formerly Twitter), and TikTok, from moderating their content. The tech companies have challenged those laws—which stem from Republican complaints about “shadowbanning” and “censorship”—under the First Amendment, arguing that they have a constitutional right to allow, or not allow, whatever content they want. Because the laws would limit the platforms’ ability to police hate speech, conspiracy theories, and vaccine misinformation, many liberal organizations and Democratic officials have lined up to defend giant corporations that they otherwise tend to vilify. On the flip side, many conservative groups have taken a break from dismantling the administrative state to support the government’s power to regulate private businesses. Everyone’s bedfellows are strange.

I joined a group of liberal law professors who filed a brief on behalf of Texas. Many of our traditional allies think that siding with Abbott and his attorney general, Ken Paxton, is ill-advised to say the least, and I understand that. The laws in question are bad, and if upheld, will have bad consequences. But a broad constitutional ruling against them—a ruling that holds that the government cannot prohibit dominant platforms from unfairly discriminating against certain users—would be even worse.

At an abstract level, the Texas law is based on a kernel of a good idea, one with appeal across the political spectrum. Social-media platforms and search engines have tremendous power over communications and access to information. A platform’s decision to ban a certain user or prohibit a particular point of view can have a dramatic influence on public discourse and the political process. Leaving that much power in the hands of a tiny number of unregulated private entities poses serious problems in a democracy. One way America has traditionally dealt with this dynamic is through nondiscrimination laws that require powerful private entities to treat everyone fairly.

The execution, however, leaves much to be desired. Both the Texas and Florida laws were passed at a moment when many Republican lawmakers were railing against perceived anti-conservative discrimination by tech platforms. Facebook and Twitter had ousted Donald Trump after January 6. Throughout the pandemic and the run-up to the 2020 election, platforms had gotten more aggressive about banning certain types of content, including COVID misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories. These crackdowns appeared to disproportionately affect conservative users. According to Greg Abbott and other Republican politicians, that was by design.

Genevieve Lakier: The great free-speech reversal

The laws reflect their origins in hyperbolic politics. They are sloppy and read more like propaganda than carefully considered legislation. The Texas law says that platforms can’t censor or moderate content based on viewpoint, aside from narrow carve-outs (such as child-abuse material), but it doesn’t explain how that rule is supposed to work. Within First Amendment law, the line between subject matter and viewpoint is infamously difficult to draw, and the broad wording of the Texas statute could lead to platforms abandoning content moderation entirely. (Even the bland-sounding civility requirements of a platform’s terms of service might be treated as expressing a point of view.) Similarly, the Florida law prohibits platforms from suspending the accounts of political candidates or media publications, period. This could give certain actors carte blanche to engage in potentially dangerous and abusive behavior online. Neither law deals with how algorithmic recommendation works, and how a free-for-all is likely to lead to the most toxic content being amplified.

Given these weaknesses, many experts confidently predicted that the laws would swiftly be struck down. Indeed, Florida’s was overturned by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, but the conservative Fifth Circuit upheld the Texas statute. Last year, the Supreme Court agreed to consider the constitutionality of both laws.

The plaintiff is NetChoice, the lobbying group for the social-media companies. It argues that platforms should be treated like newspapers when they moderate content. In a landmark 1974 case , the Supreme Court struck down a state law that required newspapers to allow political candidates to publish a response to critical coverage. It held that, under the First Amendment, a newspaper is exercising its First Amendment rights when it decides what to publish and what not to publish. According to NetChoice, the same logic should apply to the Instagrams and TikToks of the world. Suppressing a post or a video, it argues, is an act of “editorial discretion” protected from government regulation by the impermeable shield of the First Amendment. Just as the state can’t require outlets to publish an op-ed by a particular politician, this theory goes, it can’t force X to carry the views of both Zionists and anti-Zionists—or any other content the site doesn’t want to host.

This argument reflects a staggering degree of chutzpah, because the platforms have spent the past decade insisting that they are not like newspapers, but rather are neutral conduits that bear no responsibility for the material that appears on their services. Legally speaking, that’s true: Congress specifically decided , in 1996, to shield websites that host user-generated content from newspaper-esque liability.

But the problem with the newspaper analogy goes deeper than its opportunistic hypocrisy. Newspapers hire journalists, choose topics, and carefully express an overall editorial vision through the content they publish. They might publish submissions or letters to the editor, but they don’t simply open their pages to the public at large. A newspaper article can fairly be interpreted, on some level, as the newspaper expressing its values and priorities. To state the obvious, this is not how things work at the scale of a platform like Instagram or TikTok—values and priorities are instead expressed through algorithmic design and product infrastructure.

If newspapers are the wrong analogy, what is the right one? In its briefs, Texas argues that social-media platforms should be treated as communications infrastructure. It points to the long history of nondiscrimination laws, such as the Communications Act of 1934, that require the owners of communication networks to serve all comers equally. Your telephone provider is not allowed to censor your calls if you say something it doesn’t like, and this is not held to be a First Amendment problem. According to Texas, the same logic should apply to social-media companies.

Read: The Supreme Court cases that could redefine the internet

In the brief that I co-authored, my colleagues and I propose another, less obvious analogy: shopping malls. Malls, like social-media companies, are privately owned, but as major gathering places, they play an important social and political function (or at least they used to). Accordingly, the California Supreme Court held that, under the state constitution, people had a right to “speech and petitioning, reasonably exercised, in shopping centers even when the centers are privately owned.” When a mall owner challenged that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected its argument. So long as the state isn’t imposing its own views, the Court held, it can require privately owned companies that play a public role to host speech they don’t want to host. In our brief, we argue that the same logic should apply to large social-media platforms. A law forcing platforms to publish specific messages might be unconstitutional, but not a law that merely bans viewpoint discrimination.

I am under no illusions about the Texas and Florida statutes. If these poorly written laws go into effect, harmful things may happen as a result. But I’m even more worried about a decision saying that the laws violate the First Amendment, because such a ruling, unless very narrowly crafted, could prevent us from passing good versions of nondiscrimination laws.

States should be able to require platforms, for instance, to neutrally and fairly apply their own stated terms of service. Congress should be able to prohibit platforms from discriminating against news organizations—such as by burying their content—based on their size or point of view, a requirement embedded in proposed legislation by Senator Amy Klobuchar. The alternative is to give the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk the inalienable right to censor their political opponents, if they so choose.

In fact, depending on how the Court rules, the consequences could go even further. A ruling that broadly insulates content moderation from regulation could jeopardize all kinds of efforts to regulate digital platforms. For instance, state legislatures across the country have introduced or passed bills designed to protect teenagers from the worst effects of social media. Many of them would regulate content moderation directly. Some would require platforms to mitigate harms to children; others would prohibit them from using algorithms to recommend content. NetChoice has filed briefs in courts around the country (including in Utah , California , and Arkansas ) arguing that these laws violate the First Amendment. That argument has succeeded at least twice so far, including in a lawsuit temporarily blocking California’s Age-Appropriate Design Code Act from being enforced. A Supreme Court ruling for NetChoice in the pair of cases being argued next week would likely make blocking child-safety social-media bills easier just as they’re gaining momentum. That’s one of the reasons 22 attorneys general, led by New York’s Letitia James and including those of California, Connecticut, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia, filed a brief outlining their interest in preserving state authority to regulate social media.

Sometimes the solution to a bad law is to go to court. But sometimes the solution to a bad law is to pass a better one. Rather than lining up to give Meta, YouTube, X, and TikTok capacious constitutional immunity, the people who are worried about these laws should be focusing their energies on getting Congress to pass more sensible regulations instead.

Support for this project was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

TikTok is becoming a popular source for news. Can it help fill the gaps left by local TV news cuts?

Media experts say loss of news programming, journalism jobs not easily replaced.

what is a review in journalism

Social Sharing

Frank Cirinna didn't necessarily set out to become someone people turn to for news headlines, but that's exactly what has happened with his popular TikTok account.

He is admittedly not a journalist — he's a full-time school teacher in the Toronto area — but his concise yet punchy videos breaking down local and national news stories, sometimes infused with his personal takes on the topics, has attracted nearly 100,000 followers to his account, @frankdomenic .

"This was a way for me to reach people who wanted to be informed but didn't want to sit down and watch the evening news or weren't traditional readers," said Cirinna.

  • Have media cuts changed your news consumption habits? Would you turn to TikTok for your news? Tell us about it in an email to  [email protected]

The 30-year-old is one of many Canadian TikTokers — including former Global News journalist Rachel Gilmore and former CP24 reporter Brandon Gonez — who are turning TikTok into a favoured platform for news. 

They're demonstrating that there is a demand for watching someone deliver the news when the traditional local TV news landscape is diminishing. But media experts say though some audiences have shifted to less conventional options, local TV news reporting isn't easily replaced once it disappears.

"There are, you know, people providing valuable information [on TikTok]," said Nicole Blanchett, an associate professor at Toronto Metropolitan University's School of Journalism and a former producer with CityNews.

"But how much one person can do compared to a newsroom — it's not comparable."

what is a review in journalism

Bell Media cuts mean losses to local news coverage

Pivoting to new platforms.

News outlets, faced with dwindling ad revenue, have been chasing audiences to new social media platforms for some time — whether it was Facebook, YouTube or X, which was formerly known as Twitter — with varying success. 

In its 2023 Digital News Report , the Reuters Institute found 69 per cent of Canadians get their news online, which includes both websites and social media, while 49 per cent said they watch TV news — a number driven by viewers 45 and up. 

Facebook, at the time the research was conducted, was the most popular social media source for news, but its parent company Meta has since blocked news access for Canadian users in response to the federal government's Online News Act. X, since taken over by billionaire Elon Musk, has turned its focus away from news. 

The audience for news on TikTok is small but growing. It accounted for just five per cent of news consumption in the Reuters Institute survey of 2,150 Canadians, conducted in early 2023, and the demographics, not surprisingly, tend to skew younger. 

A similar Pew Research poll in the U.S. found TikTok saw the biggest growth among those who regularly get their news from social media, rising from 22 per cent in 2020 to 43 per cent last year. 

what is a review in journalism

Trudeau 'furious' after Bell job cuts

Local news losses.

Local TV news, meanwhile, took a beating this month.

On Feb. 8, Bell Canada, the parent company of Bell Media and CTV, slashed journalism jobs nationwide and cancelled news programming across most of its markets. 

It ceased production of weekend evening and late night newscasts across the country, except those in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Toronto is the only one of its markets maintaining a weekday noon newscast. 

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According to a CBC News tally, the cuts amount to 48.5 hours of original local TV news programming lost across the country each week — and that's on top of many of these markets having lost a half-hour from their 5 p.m. newscasts each weeknight after CTV News launched a 5:30 national newscast on Oct. 31. 

It's the "slow death by literally 1,000 and some cuts," said Canadian Association of Journalists president Brent Jolly, and reflective of "a widening chasm of information deserts across the country." 

CBC is also poised to lay off 10 per cent of its workforce , citing a $125-million budget shortfall with approximately 250 jobs cut from its English service and a similar number from French-language Radio-Canada. It's not yet clear how the cuts may affect news programming.

Meeting the audience

But even in the face of cuts, news organizations must continue to adapt to meet the viewers where they are, which is largely online, Jolly said in an interview from Toronto. 

He is "a bit cautious in hoping that the wave of TikTokers and social media influencers are going to be the ones to sort of fill this gap" left by cancelled local newscasts and fewer reporters. 

Even though journalists and online content creators may both rely on information and footage sourced from social media or details provided by eyewitnesses, he says the degree of editorial scrutiny is far greater in a newsroom.

In a lot of cases, he says, independent news content creators are relying on the journalism already being gathered by mainstream news sources and he doesn't see as many of the independent TikTok presenters going to the scene where news is happening. 

Cirinna, for his part, said he doesn't have the time or resources to do so. 

  • Trudeau 'pissed off' by Bell Media's 'garbage decision' to lay off journalists
  • CBC/Radio-Canada to cut 10 per cent of workforce, end some programming as it faces $125M budget shortfall

The four major English-language news broadcasters — CBC News, CityNews, CTV News and Global News — are all making attempts to attract audiences by posting their news content on TikTok and have developed substantial followings. 

Although their accounts may offer some content from different regions, they primarily target broader audiences and there are only a few specifically local accounts under their branding serving larger markets, such as @cbcvancouver or @ctvnewstoronto, but not smaller communities.

If there is a desire to increase a local news presence on TikTok, it will require a dedicated investment and proper resources, says Blanchett. 

"If we keep shrinking these newsrooms and getting rid of newsrooms, there's no opportunity to do that," she said. 

what is a review in journalism

Breaking the algorithm

Although TikTok is rising in popularity when it comes to consuming news, Blanchett has concerns about the accessibility of local journalism on the platform. 

She noted there remains a large number of older viewers who rely on a local TV newscast and who may not be on platforms like TikTok, but the platform itself wasn't built to be a news delivery service. 

The content you see and when you see it is based on the app's algorithm, which recommends and amplifies videos based on what's popular, not just which accounts you follow. 

"If we need everybody to see [news] right now because, you know, it's a safety issue or somebody is missing or there's a child that's been abducted, that may not just necessarily fit with the algorithm and that is something that no one outside of TikTok can control," Blanchett said. 

  • Federal money's kept hundreds of journalists employed in Canada. But the program's set to expire
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And while TikTok's algorithm may be useful for discovering content you haven't seen before, Cirinna points out that it doesn't work in favour of news coverage because it doesn't present content in any sort of curated or chronological order the way a traditional newscast might. 

"You might get part two of a video before you get part one," he explained. "If you're interested, you go back and watch part one, but that's not really healthy for a news ecosystem." 

what is a review in journalism

CBC president addresses staffing cuts, impact on Canadians

Picking up the slack.

Cirinna believes emerging TikTok news presenters can serve as a great complement to traditional media outlets – but aren't a replacement for disappearing local TV news reporting. 

He has built up trust with his followers and even gets tips for stories that he sometimes winds up passing on to newsrooms because he can't do the same level of journalistic diligence required. 

But he also believes it's not his job to do. 

"We shouldn't be picking up the slack for the journalistic outlets that don't deem it important to properly support their staff," he said.

what is a review in journalism


what is a review in journalism

Senior Writer

Nick Logan is a senior writer with CBCNews.ca based in Vancouver. He has worked as a multi-platform reporter and producer for more than a decade, with a particular focus on international news. You can reach out to him at [email protected].

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Columbia Journalism Review

Can Journalism Be Fun Again?

what is a review in journalism

Samantha Stokes is a reporter at Business Insider , covering startups and venture capital firms. At some point last year, feeling adrift and disconnected from her colleagues in the industry, she started thinking about throwing a party for journalists—a way to overcome, as she put it, “the feeling of isolation that makes this job a lot harder than it already is.”

Initially, she imagined it as a chance for younger journalists in New York to get to know each other better. “I graduated journalism school in 2019 and only had ten months to live in a normal media world, not even time to get my own footing,” she said. “And then everything shut down.”

Earlier this year, after the “massive monthlong stretch of everybody getting laid off” began, Stokes finally put her plan in motion. She worried that she might not get enough people—instead, the response was overwhelming. Within a couple of weeks, more than 250 people had RSVP’d. She had to change the venue, and the date. “I meant for this to be a networking thing, or a chance to maybe find someone with an open role,” she said. “But it seems like people really just want to talk to other people about the state of the industry. I get the sense there will be a lot of commiserating, like a journalist therapy session.”

It’s easy to forget that journalism drinks once meant something else entirely. I’m old enough to have once been deluged by them—monthly magazine drinks at The Scratcher, summer softball booze fests at Tap a Keg, Gawker nights at The Magician. There was a time when seemingly every month had a launch party, a holiday party, a whatever party. Every once in a while someone would show up with a corporate card and buy everyone a round of drinks. It was sometimes followed by the inevitable collapse-of-the-publication party, but even then you could be excused for feeling more what’s next than end of the line .

Then the vibe shifted. The layoffs last year and this rolled out in increments. The sense of dread just went on. Even if you were initially spared, you went to the bar and bought some drinks for your friends who got the ax and sneaked out early, knowing your time would surely come. (Mine did in November, at Vice , after what must have been three or four iterations of layoff “parties.”)

The parties have now formally become wakes. Earlier this month, the National Press Club, in DC, threw what sounded like the saddest party in journalism history—a free taco night at a local establishment (name: Reliable Source) that had all the appeal of a mutual aid society luncheon. “You can’t just do nothing,” the Press Club president told the Times . It feels like the rallying cry this moment deserves.

Dejected people always think they can predict the future, and that it will look like the darkest elements of the past. (This week’s chapter of my old company’s collapse certainly makes it hard to see beyond the present.) But if you were around in journalism long enough to remember the good times, you know better than to think that anything in media lasts forever. If you were around before the internet and the apps turned everyone into entrepreneurs and everything into a valuation, you know that the best times aren’t always the flushest—in fact, it’s those moments of deprivation when the most interesting things happen. So, you know, maybe it’s time for a genuine party. People won’t have fun reading, watching, or listening to what we do unless we have fun making it. It has to start somewhere.

Here at CJR, we’ve kept a close eye on the shake-ups in the media world so far this year. Cameron Joseph documented the demise of the Washington bureau , explaining how having fewer regional reporters in DC isn’t just bad for journalism, it’s bad for democracy. Feven Merid talked to culture writer Israel Daramola about what the layoffs at Pitchfork mean for the future of music journalism. Kevin Lind took a look at what happened when researchers in Pennsylvania tried to give away subscriptions to local papers. (Spoiler: it didn’t go well.) And Sarah Grevy Gotfredsen at the Tow Center shared a new report on how partisan outlets are filling the local news void.

We’ve also noticed some promising bright spots. James Ball made the case that Reddit has become the most interesting, even civilized, place for some forms of news; and new legislation in California , modeled on similar laws in Australia and Canada, offers a glimmer of hope for journalism’s finances. (Bill Grueskin took a deeper dive into how the Australia bill worked, and what might happen here, in 2022.)

Also worth considering:

*Christian Lorentzen, in the fall issue of Liberties , looked back with unsentimental fondness on those supposed “good old days” of New York media.

* The New Yorker asked if journalists are ready for an “extinction-level event.”

* Semafor cautioned that 2024 is not likely to bring immediate salvation for journalism, at least not for the political press.

*At the height of the pandemic, Jerry Saltz, the New York Magazine art critic, posted a picture of an empty subway car on Instagram, with a caption I think about all the time. “Come to New York City,” he wrote. “Start over.… You are tasked with building a new art world and a new city. I and millions of others did this here once-upon-a-glorious-time. Now it is all of your turns. Grab your tools, brushes, kids and come to NYC. You are the luckiest people in the world.”

Other notable stories:

  • Yesterday was yet another terrible day for the media business. Bruce Dixon, the CEO of Vice Media, told staffers in a memo that hundreds of them will lose their jobs in the coming days, likely gutting the company’s news division; Dixon said that the company will no longer publish on its own website, Vice.com, and will instead look to “partner with established media companies to distribute our digital content, including news, on their global platforms, as we fully transition to a studio model.” Elsewhere, the tech site Engadget , which is run by Yahoo, moved to lay off ten staffers, including two top editors, as part of a strategic pivot . And WAMU, a public radio station in Washington, DC, said that it would close its office and automate some of its operations today as managers meet with staff to discuss a “new strategic framework” and “next steps.”
  • Last year, the FBI raided the home of Timothy Burke, a journalist and media consultant in Florida, and seized his devices in connection with the dissemination of embarrassing unaired footage from shows on Fox News. Burke and his lawyers subsequently said (including in an interview with CJR’s Mathew Ingram ) that he obtained the footage legally—by using publicly available login credentials that a source showed him how to find—but yesterday, federal prosecutors indicted Burke on fourteen counts, including conspiracy and wiretapping . The Freedom of the Press Foundation described the indictment as “disturbing,” arguing that it implies “a previously unrecognized duty to ask for express permission to use information [journalists] find posted on the internet.”
  • Yesterday, Slate announced plans for two new seasons of its history podcast Slow Burn : the first, slated for May and hosted by Christina Cauterucci, will tell the story of the “Briggs Initiative,” the first statewide referendum on LGBTQ+ rights; the second, slated for later in the year and hosted by Josh Levin, will tell the story of the early Fox News, focusing on “its rise between the 2000 and 2004 elections and the scramble on the Left to try and combat it.” In other history-podcast news, Spark Media and the American Library Association are out with The People’s Recorder , a show revisiting the New Deal–era Federal Writers’ Project (which we wrote about back in 2020 ).
  • Recently, Natalie Kitroeff, the bureau chief for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean at the New York Times , emailed the office of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the president of Mexico, for comment on a story about his associates’ alleged ties to drug cartels. Rather than respond directly, López Obrador showed the email at a televised press conference, without obscuring Kitroeff’s personal phone number . Various media-watchers condemned the move given how dangerous Mexico is for journalists, while a Mexican agency is investigating whether López Obrador breached privacy laws.
  • And Lyudmila Navalnaya—the mother of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader (and sometime journalist ) who died in a prison camp last week— said that Russian authorities finally permitted her to visit a morgue and view her son’s body, but refused to release him into her custody unless she agreed to bury him in secret . (Authorities also showed Navalnaya a report claiming that Navalny died of natural causes.) In a video posted to her son’s YouTube channel, Navalnaya accused officials of “blackmailing” her.

ICYMI: Can Julian Assange appeal his extradition to the US? A British court will decide.

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