What is Journalism? Definition and Characteristics


Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Journalism is all over the world. We have all been in presence of a piece of journalism before, but we are not completely sure what the whole idea of journalism is about. In this article, we will answer the question “what is journalism?” and give you some background for you to understand its definition.


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The word journalism comes from the word journal, from the Latin word diurnalis, which means “belonging to a day”. During the Middle ages, in Europe, journals were books where prayers were written to be sung every day, week, and month. In the 17th century; however, journals started to be used as “personal diaries”, where people wrote daily events and situations. It was not until decades later, with the invention of the printing press, that the word journal started to be used as “daily newspapers”. When we talk about journalism today, we are talking about this meaning of the word. 

What is Journalism? 

According to the American Press Institute, “journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities.” In other words, journalism refers to the recollection of information and news to be later distributed through different means such as newspapers, magazines, blogs, books, podcasts, radio, and television among others. Journalism is a form of communicating with people, with readers. What journalists do is portray different information for people to acknowledge it. The information that they write is in form of news that can be expressed in different mediums. 

There are different forms of journalism. Journalism can be expressed in form of breaking news, telling stories that happened, or as opinions, which is the case of editorials, columns, and reviews. Besides, journalism can also be expressed in blogs, discussion boards, and wikis. Journalism is what keeps us updated on every event or issue that happens outside. As the American Press Institute says, the purpose of journalism is “to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.”

You may want to know more about journalism in this article: Degree in Journalism: All you Need to Know About Journalism


Elements of Good Journalism 

In their book The Elements of Journalism, Bill Kovach and Thomas Rosenstiel spell out 10 important elements that make good journalism.  Here there are:

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

All in all, answering the question “what is journalism?” is not so hard, it can be defined as the recollection of information to its distribution to people so that they can be aware of what happens around them. The word journalism traces back to ancient times when at first, referred to the prayers written in a book. But nowadays, journalism can be referred to different other forms of communication through different mediums. These mediums can be newspapers, magazines, websites, television, radio, blogs, books, podcasts, and more. 

Where Can I Study Journalism? 

In South Africa, you can get a Master’s degree in journalism at Stellenbosch University, where you are going to get a Master of Arts in Journalism. If you are interested in studying Journalism and you think that this is the right career for you, you can get more information about this and other degrees. 

Fill in the form on this site and one of our advisors will contact you as soon as possible to answer any questions you may have. 






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