THE ELEMENTS OF JOURNALISM Journalism's first obligation is to the truth. Its first loyalty is to citizens. Its essence is a discipline of verification. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover. It must serve as an independent monitor of power. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience. Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news. Tom Rosenstiel, Bill Kovach
3. The essence of journalism is a discipline of verification Defines objectivity, not as an absence of point of view, but as utilizing a “transparent approach to evidence” Seeking out multiple sources Asking all relevant sides for comment Disclosing, whenever possible, all relevant information about the sources “The method is objective, not the journalist”
SEEKING OUT MULTIPLE SOURCES INFORMATION COMES FROM PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE BACKGROUND OF STORY CONTEXT OBSERVATION SOURCES
SOURCING THE QUALITY OF YOUR STORY DEPENDS ON THE QUALITY OF YOUR SOURCES A GOOD STORY NEEDS A VARIETY OF SOURCES FOR INFORMATION FOR CONFIRMATION FOR AUTHENTICITY FOR AUTHORITY FOR TENSION FOR COLOR
YOU NEED A VARIETY OF SOURCES PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES PEOPLE HAVE AGENDAS TO WRITE A RICHER, MORE NUANCED, MORE INTERESTING STORY, YOU NEED A LOT OF INFORMATION AND CONTRASTING POINTS OF VIEW TO SHARPEN YOUR THINKING AND FOCUS BY TALKING TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW TO GUARD AGAINST HOAXES
SOURCES DOCUMENTS PHONE BOOKS PRESS RELEASES GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS AND ARCHIVES CORRESPONDENCE (INCLUDING ) VIDEOS INTERNET PEOPLE
PEOPLE AS SOURCES OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE CORPORATIONS NGOs SOCIAL/CIVIC/RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS CHURCHES SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCIES POLITICAL PARTIES
PEOPLE AS SOURCES UNOFFICIAL THOSE AFFECTED BY GOVERNMENT ACTION VICTIMS OF AN ACCIDENT OR CATASTROPHE “CLIENTS” OF ALL TYPES YOU CAN FIND THESE SOURCES IN “THIRD PLACES” THAT YOU SHOULD FREQUENT AS A JOURNALIST
PEOPLE AS SOURCES STRIVE FOR VARIETY POINT OF VIEW AGE ETHNICITY SOCIAL POSITION
WHO MAKES A GOOD SOURCE? THINK STRATEGICALLY WHO WILL SUIT MY PURPOSE BEST? WHO WILL HELP READERS IDENTIFY WITH THE STORY? WHO CAN GIVE ME THE INFORMATION I NEED? WHO IS LIKELY TO HAVE A GOOD ANECDOTE? AN UNUSUAL POINT OF VIEW? AN INTERESTING OPINION? WHO CAN I REASONABLY GET?
WHO IS A GOOD SOURCE? NOT ALL SOURCES ARE CREATED EQUAL. CONSIDER: BACKGROUND RELATIONSHIP TO THE STORY EYEWITNESS? DIRECT CONTACT? PERSONAL TIES? CONTEXT DOES HIS STORY MATCH WHAT WE KNOW?
WHO IS A GOOD SOURCE? NOT ALL SOURCES ARE CREATED EQUAL. CONSIDER: RELIABILITY LEVEL/DEPTH OF KNOWLEDGE EXPERIENCE POSITION/PRESTIGE AUTHORITY EG: NOT ALL JOURNALISTS ARE EXPERTS IN POLITICS ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE DOES HE SPEAK CLEARLY? CAN SHE TRANSLATE TECHNICAL LANGUAGE?
WHY IS THIS PERSON TELLING ME THIS? RELIABILITY CONFLICT OF INTEREST? TRANSPARENCY MOTIVES/BIASES FINANCIAL IDEOLOGICAL WHAT DOES HE GAIN BY TALKING? WHAT DOES HE WANT TO HIDE? CAN THE PERSON BENEFIT FROM MY WRITING THIS STORY?
WHY IS THIS PERSON TELLING ME THIS? A JOURNALIST WHO DOES NOT QUESTION THE MOTIVES OF A SOURCE CAN FALL INTO A TRAP A SOURCE CAN TELL YOU SOMETHING FOR HIS OWN BENEFIT, OR FOR THE COMMON GOOD. OFTEN, HIS MOTIVATION COMES FROM A COMBINATION OF THE TWO. Leonard Ray Teel Ron Taylor
WHEN EVALUATING UNOFFICIAL SOURCES, CONSIDER: FEAR OF PRESS LACK OF EXPERIENCE THE RASHOMON EFFECT VULNERABILITY/COST PUBLIC SHAME LOSS OF JOB
4. Journalists must maintain an independence from those they cover Independence is “a cornerstone of reliability” Even columnists and editorialists must be fair, accurate and honest Transparency is key
SPJ CODE OF ETHICS JOURNALISTS SHOULD BE FREE OF OBLIGATION TO ANY INTEREST OTHER THAN THE PUBLIC'S RIGHT TO KNOW. AVOID CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, REAL OR PERCEIVED. REMAIN FREE OF ASSOCIATIONS AND ACTIVITIES THAT MAY COMPROMISE INTEGRITY OR DAMAGE CREDIBILITY FAMILY FRIENDS BUSINESS ACQUAINTANCES REFUSE GIFTS, FAVORS, FEES, FREE TRAVEL AND SPECIAL TREATMENT
SPJ CODE OF ETHICS JOURNALISTS SHOULD… SHUN SECONDARY EMPLOYMENT, INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICS OR COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS IF THEY COMPROMISE JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY DISCLOSE UNAVOIDABLE CONFLICTS. DENY FAVORED TREATMENT TO ADVERTISERS AND SPECIAL INTERESTS AND RESIST THEIR PRESSURE TO INFLUENCE NEWS COVERAGE. BE WARY OF SOURCES OFFERING INFORMATION FOR FAVORS OR MONEY; AVOID BIDDING FOR NEWS.
ANONYMOUS SOURCES THE PROBLEM: THEY WEAKEN A STORY THEY DAMAGE YOUR CREDIBILITY IS HE LYING? IS SHE FLOATING A TRIAL BALLOON? THEY MAKE THE READER SUSPICIOUS BIG TROUBLE IF THE STORY GOES TO COURT
GROUND RULES ON THE RECORD – Reporter can use all information provided. NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION (A.K.A. “ON BACKGROUND): Reporter can use information but promises to protect the source’s identity during reporting and in the published story. OFF THE RECORD: Information cannot be used in the story, even if the source is not identified
GENERAL POLICY MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO GET THE SOURCE ON RECORD DO NOT USE ANONYMOUS SOURCES TO MAKE NEGATIVE COMMENTS OR CHARGES USE ANONYMOUS SOURCES ONLY WHEN YOU ARE CONVINCED THAT THE FACT IS OF OVERWHELMING NEWS VALUE AND THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO GET IT TELL THE READER WHY THE NEWSPAPER HAS DECIDED TO GRANT ANONYMITY ALWAYS GET EDITOR’S APPROVAL.
SOURCES Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel: The Elements of Journalism The Missouri Group: News Reporting and Writing Christopher Scanlan: Reporting and Writing SPJ Code of Ethics at PoynterOnline at