The principles and elements of good journalism

Journalism as a profession has some qualities and standards which makes it either good or bad.

Journalism as we have gotten know earlier, is the gathering, assessment, creation and dissemination of news stories or information to the citizens or people. Journalism as a profession has some qualities and standards which makes it either good or bad. Now let us take a scenario of two level teachers, the pupil teacher with the senior high school qualification and the professional teacher who has been certified by the education authorities. 

In the ethics of teaching, one important thing supervisors normally check is the writing of lesson note which according to them, a teacher who does not write lesson notes create the assumption that he does not teach the students or he does not know what he teaches. In the course of supervision, and in case both levels of teachers are not able to present their written lesson notes, they would be found guilty for breaking the ethics of the teaching profession but there is a high probability that the pupil teacher wouldn’t endure so much punishment as compared to the professional teacher because of his qualifications; meaning he knows what to do exactly and refused to do.

There are other people who are volunteering each and every day and taking onto social media community stories or incidences that has been happening in their presence. They are known as the citizen journalists. Now, what qualities and principles would differentiate a citizen journalist from a professional journalist? In this article, we will be touching on the principles and qualities of journalism, basically good journalism.

Basically, there are three principles of good journalism and out of this three principles do the qualities originate from. The first principle is objectivity, followed by professionalism and truthfulness. Objectivity in the general sense is saying something as it is without adding your views, opinions or emotions. The opposite of this principle is subjectivity. A good journalist must possess this principle in their day to day affairs. In news reporting and in news writing, professional journalists should desist from adding their opinions and emotions to such stories. The basic role journalists play is to inform the public but when this information is influenced by opinions of journalists, it does not become a genuine information again rather a gossip since the information shared across follows no rigor. An example is a journalist reporting on the manifesto of two political parties and in the course or at the end if the story, the journalist weighs the two manifestos and conclude that indeed party A has nothing to offer but party B has a good manifesto. Objectivity does not allow that.

A good journalist must be truthful. A journalist’s first obligation is to the citizens. Once you accept to be a journalist, you owe the citizens the truth always. You must report news which are true. News which clickbait and not news worthy is not tolerated in the journalism profession. Whatever information you carry to the public must be the truth and nothing else. The last principle of a good journalism is professionalism. What is professionalism? The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English explains professionalism as the skill and high standards of behavior expected of a professional person. Journalism itself is a profession and journalists must be professional by setting some standards of behavior in their daily tasks. The choice of words, the code of dressing are all standards a journalist can set and it attracts respect to the profession.

Out of these principles are the ten elements of good journalism. Let us look at the ten elements of good journalism as published in Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel (2001) book called The Elements of Journalism.

The first element of a good journalism is truth. As discussed earlier under the principles, a good journalism must seek to report the truth and nothing else. The second element is assembling and verifying facts. In order not to go contrary in the reporting the truth, journalists must crosscheck and verify facts before presenting them to the public. Even though some journalists would want to be the first to break news but breaking the news without a complete and unverified story which may be false is very unethical. The third element is loyalty. The journalist’s first obligation is to the citizens. Journalism is just like an elected president. You are occupying that position to serve the public. You must be loyal to the citizens in all circumstances. Independency is the next element of a good journalism. You must be independent in carrying out roles without any external force influencing you to report what is contrary to what it is supposed to be. A journalist must be neutral.

The fifth element is independent monitor of power. A good journalist must be the one to check the powers of those in power thus the watchdog role. You must serve as a voice to the voiceless and examine unseen corners of the society. The sixth element is to provide a forum for public criticism and compromise. A good journalist must always seek the public’s opinions on trending issues and this would pave way for criticisms and critiques as well. 

The seventh element is to keep news comprehensive and proportion. News stories must be clear without any ambiguity and with the only intention of informing the public and nothing else. The eight element is to strive and keep news significant and interesting. A good journalist must balance what readers read. It should not always be under one niche like politics alone but it should vary. The ninth element is journalism practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience thus allowing them to work independently. The last element is to sometimes allow citizens to exercise their rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news.

These are the three principles and the ten elements of good journalism that every professional journalist must possess.

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