Last updated

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Occupation type
Journalism, mass media
Activity sectors
Mass Media, public relations, politics, sports, business
Competencies Writing skills, interpersonal skills
Education required
Typically a bachelor's degree
Fields of
Mass media
Related jobs
Correspondent, columnist, spokesperson, politician

A journalist is an individual who collects/gathers information in the form of text, audio, or pictures, processes it into a news-worthy form, and disseminates it to the public. The act or process mainly done by the journalist is called journalism.



Journalists can be broadcast, print, advertising, and public relations personnel, and, depending on the form of journalism, the term journalist may also include various categories of individuals as per the roles they play in the process. This includes reporters, correspondents, citizen journalists, editors, editorial-writers, columnists, and visual journalists, such as photojournalists (journalists who use the medium of photography).

A reporter is a type of journalist who researches, writes and reports on information in order to present using sources. This may entail conducting interviews, information-gathering and/or writing articles. Reporters may split their time between working in a newsroom, or from home, and going out to witness events or interviewing people. Reporters may be assigned a specific beat or area of coverage.

Matthew C. Nisbet, who has written on science communication, [1] has defined a "knowledge journalist" as a public intellectual who, like Walter Lippmann, Fareed Zakaria, Naomi Klein, Michael Pollan, and Andrew Revkin, sees their role as researching complicated issues of fact or science which most laymen would not have the time or access to information to research themselves, then communicating an accurate and understandable version to the public as a teacher and policy advisor.

In his best-known books, Public Opinion (1922) and The Phantom Public (1925), Lippmann argued that most individuals lacked the capacity, time, and motivation to follow and analyze news of the many complex policy questions that troubled society. Nor did they often directly experience most social problems, or have direct access to expert insights. These limitations were made worse by a news media that tended to over-simplify issues and to reinforce stereotypes, partisan viewpoints, and prejudices. As a consequence, Lippmann believed that the public needed journalists like himself who could serve as expert analysts, guiding "citizens to a deeper understanding of what was really important". [2]

In 2018, the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook reported that employment for the category, "reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts," will decline 9 percent between 2016 and 2026. [3]

Journalists today

A worldwide sample of 27,500 journalists in 67 countries in 2012–2016 produced the following profile: [4]

57 percent male;
mean age of 38
mean years of experience, 13
college degree, 56 percent; graduate degree, 29 percent
61 percent specialized in journalism/communications at college
62 percent identified as generalists and 23 percent as hard-news beat journalists
47 percent were members of a professional association
80 percent worked full-time
50 percent worked in print, 23 percent on television, 17 percent on radio, and 16 percent online.

In 2019 the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism Digital News Report described the future for journalists in South Africa as “grim” because of low online revenue and plummeting advertising. [5]

In 2020 Reporters Without Borders secretary general Christophe Deloire said journalists in developing countries were suffering political interference because the COVID-19 pandemic had given governments around the world the chance “to take advantage of the fact that politics are on hold, the public is stunned and protests are out of the question, in order to impose measures that would be impossible in normal times”. [6]

In 2023 the closure of local newspapers in the US accelerated to an average of 2.5 per week, leaving more than 200 US counties as “news deserts” and meaning that more than half of all U.S. counties had limited access to reliable local news and information, according to researchers at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.

In January 2024, The Los Angeles Times, Time magazine and National Geographic all conducted layoffs, and Condé Nast journalists went on strike over proposed job cuts. [7] The Los Angeles Times laid off more than 20% of the newsroom. [8] CNN, Sports Illustrated and NBC News shed employees in early 2024. [9] The New York Times reported that Americans were suffering from “news fatigue” due to coverage of major news stories like the Hamas attack, Russian invasion of Ukraine and the presidential election. [9] American consumers turned away from journalists at legacy organizations as social media became a common news source. [9]

Journalistic freedom

Journalists sometimes expose themselves to danger, particularly when reporting in areas of armed conflict or in states that do not respect the freedom of the press. Organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders publish reports on press freedom and advocate for journalistic freedom. As of November 2011, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 887 journalists have been killed worldwide since 1992 by murder (71%), crossfire or combat (17%), or on dangerous assignment (11%). The "ten deadliest countries" for journalists since 1992 have been Iraq (230 deaths), Philippines (109), Russia (77), Colombia (76), Mexico (69), Algeria (61), Pakistan (59), India (49), Somalia (45), Brazil (31) and Sri Lanka (30). [10]

The Committee to Protect Journalists also reports that as of 1 December 2010, 145 journalists were jailed worldwide for journalistic activities. Current numbers are even higher. The ten countries with the largest number of currently-imprisoned journalists are Turkey (95), [11] China (34), Iran (34), Eritrea (17), Burma (13), Uzbekistan (6), Vietnam (5), Cuba (4), Ethiopia (4), and Sudan (3). [12]

Apart from physical harm, journalists are harmed psychologically. This applies especially to war reporters, but their editorial offices at home often do not know how to deal appropriately with the reporters they expose to danger. Hence, a systematic and sustainable way of psychological support for traumatized journalists is strongly needed. However, only little and fragmented support programs exist so far. [13]

On 8 August 2023, Iran's Journalists' Day, Tehran Journalists' Association head Akbar Montajabi noted over 100 journalists arrested amid protests, while HamMihan newspaper exposed repression against 76 media workers since September 2022 following Mahsa Amini's death-triggered mass protests, leading to legal consequences for journalists including Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh [14]

Journalist and source relationship

The relationship between a professional journalist and a source can be rather complex, and a source can sometimes have an effect on an article written by the journalist. The article 'A Compromised Fourth Estate' uses Herbert Gans' metaphor to capture their relationship. He uses a dance metaphor, "The Tango," to illustrate the co-operative nature of their interactions inasmuch as "It takes two to tango". Herbert suggests that the source often leads, but journalists commonly object to this notion for two reasons:

  1. It signals source supremacy in news making.
  2. It offends journalists' professional culture, which emphasizes independence and editorial autonomy.

The dance metaphor goes on to state:

A relationship with sources that is too cozy is potentially compromising of journalists' integrity and risks becoming collusive. Journalists have typically favored a more robust, conflict model, based on a crucial assumption that if the media are to function as watchdogs of powerful economic and political interests, journalists must establish their independence of sources or risk the fourth estate being driven by the fifth estate of public relations. [15]

Safety of journalists

Journalists can face violence and intimidation for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression. The range of threats they are confronted with include murder, kidnapping, hostage-taking, offline and online harassment, intimidation, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture. Women journalists also face specific dangers and are especially vulnerable to sexual assault, whether in the form of a targeted sexual violation, often in reprisal for their work. Mob-related sexual violence aimed against journalists covering public events; or the sexual abuse of journalists in detention or captivity. Many of these crimes are not reported as a result of powerful cultural and professional stigmas." [16] [17]

Increasingly, journalists, and particularly women journalists, are facing abuse and harassment online, such as hate speech, cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, doxing, trolling, public shaming, intimidation and threats. [17]

The worst year on record for journalists

Jamal Khashoggi, killed inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 Jamal Khashoggi in March 2018 (cropped).jpg
Jamal Khashoggi, killed inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018

According to Reporters Without Borders' annual report, 2018 was the worst year on record for deadly violence and abuse toward journalists; there was a 15 percent increase in such killings since 2017, with 80 killed, 348 imprisoned and 60 held hostage. [18] [19]

Yaser Murtaja was shot by an Israeli army sniper. Rubén Pat was gunned down outside a beach bar in Mexico. Mexico was described by Reporters Without Borders as "one of world's deadliest countries for the media"; 90% of attacks on journalists in the country reportedly go unsolved. [20] Bulgarian Victoria Marinova was beaten, raped and strangled. Saudi Arabian dissident Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. [21]


From 2008 to 2019, Freedom Forum's now-defunct Newseum in Washington, D.C. featured a Journalists Memorial which honored several thousand journalists around the world who had died or were killed while reporting the news. [22] After the Newseum closed in December 2019, supporters of freedom of the press persuaded the United States Congress in December 2020 to authorize the construction of a memorial to fallen journalists on public land with private funds. [22] By May 2023, the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation had begun the design of the memorial. [23]


In the US, nearly all journalists have attended university, but only about half majored in journalism. [24] [25] Journalists who work in television or for newspapers are more likely to have studied journalism in college than journalists working for the wire services, in radio, or for news magazines. [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on the interaction of events, facts, ideas, and people that are the "news of the day" and that informs society to at least some degree of accuracy. The word, a noun, applies to the occupation, the methods of gathering information, and the organizing literary styles.

Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the fundamental principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely. Such freedom implies the absence of interference from an overreaching state; its preservation may be sought through the constitution or other legal protection and security. It is in opposition to paid press, where communities, police organizations, and governments are paid for their copyrights.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Walter Lippmann</span> American journalist

Walter Lippmann was an American writer, reporter, and political commentator. With a career spanning 60 years, he is famous for being among the first to introduce the concept of the Cold War, coining the term "stereotype" in the modern psychological meaning, as well as critiquing media and democracy in his newspaper column and several books, most notably his 1922 Public Opinion.

Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, racial injustice, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Practitioners sometimes use the terms "watchdog reporting" or "accountability reporting".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Citizen journalism</span> Journalism genre

Citizen journalism, also known as collaborative media, participatory journalism, democratic journalism, guerrilla journalism or street journalism, is based upon public citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information." Similarly, Courtney C. Radsch defines citizen journalism "as an alternative and activist form of news gathering and reporting that functions outside mainstream media institutions, often as a response to shortcomings in the professional journalistic field, that uses similar journalistic practices but is driven by different objectives and ideals and relies on alternative sources of legitimacy than traditional or mainstream journalism". Jay Rosen offers a simpler definition: "When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another." The underlying principle of citizen journalism is that ordinary people, not professional journalists, can be the main creators and distributors of news. Citizen journalism should not be confused with community journalism or civic journalism, both of which are practiced by professional journalists; collaborative journalism, which is the practice of professional and non-professional journalists working together; and social journalism, which denotes a digital publication with a hybrid of professional and non-professional journalism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reporters Without Borders</span> International organisation for freedom of the press

Reporters Without Borders is an international non-profit and non-governmental organisation focused on safeguarding the right to freedom of information. It describes its advocacy as founded on the belief that everyone requires access to the news and information, in line with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognises the right to receive and share information regardless of frontiers, along with other international rights charters. RSF has consultative status at the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and the International Organisation of the Francophonie.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Committee to Protect Journalists</span> American nonprofit organization founded 1981

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an American independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, based in New York City, with correspondents around the world. CPJ promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists. The American Journalism Review has called the organization, "Journalism's Red Cross." Since the late 1980s CPJ has been publishing an annual census of journalists killed or imprisoned in relation to their work.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) is a United States government-funded private non-profit corporation operating a news service that broadcasts radio programs and publishes online news, information, and commentary for its audiences in Asia. The service, which provides editorially independent reporting, has the stated mission of providing accurate and uncensored reporting to countries in Asia that have poor media environments and limited protections for speech and press freedom.

In journalism, a source is a person, publication, or knowledge of other record or document that gives timely information. Outside journalism, sources are sometimes known as "news sources". Examples of sources include but are not limited to official records, publications or broadcasts, officials in government or business, organizations or corporations, witnesses of crime, accidents or other events, and people involved with or affected by a news event or issue.

Journalistic ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics and good practice applicable to journalists. This subset of media ethics is known as journalism's professional "code of ethics" and the "canons of journalism". The basic codes and canons commonly appear in statements by professional journalism associations and individual print, broadcast, and online news organizations.

Source protection, sometimes also referred to as source confidentiality or in the U.S. as the reporter's privilege, is a right accorded to journalists under the laws of many countries, as well as under international law. It prohibits authorities, including the courts, from compelling a journalist to reveal the identity of an anonymous source for a story. The right is based on a recognition that without a strong guarantee of anonymity, many would be deterred from coming forward and sharing information of public interests with journalists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mass media in the Philippines</span> Mass media in the Philippines

Mass media in the Philippines consists of several types of media: television, radio, newspapers, magazines, cinema, and websites.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mass media in Syria</span> Overview of Syrian mass media

The mass media in Syria consists primarily of television, radio, Internet, film and print. The national language of Syria is Arabic but some publications and broadcasts are also available in English and French. While television is the most popular medium in Syria, the Internet has become a widely utilized vehicle to disseminate content. Transcending all available media, the government seeks to control what Syrians see by restricting coverage from outside sources. Publications and broadcasts are monitored by members of the government. All mass media outlets are under the supervision of the Ministry of Information. Third article of the 2013 Information Ministry guidelines stipulate that purpose of all media outlets is "to enlighten public opinion" in line with the ideological doctrines "of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and the policy of the state".

Collaborative journalism is a growing practice in the field of journalism. One definition is "a cooperative arrangement between two or more news and information organizations, which aims to supplement each organization’s resources and maximize the impact of the content produced." It is practiced by both professional and amateur reporters. It is not to be confused with citizen journalism.

Journalistic interventionism "reflects the extent to which journalists pursue a particular mission and promote certain values". Journalists with a high interventionist attitude do not report neutrally and objectively but are engaged in the subjects they are reporting about. An interventionist reporting style aims at influencing public opinion. Moreover, "journalism cultures that follow an interventionist approach may act on behalf of the socially disadvantaged or as mouthpiece of a political party and other groups whose interest are at stake".

Journalism culture is described as a "shared occupational ideology among newsworkers". The term journalism culture spans the cultural diversity of journalistic values, practices and media products or similar media artifacts. Research into the concept of journalism culture sometimes suggests an all-encompassing consensus among journalists "toward a common understanding and cultural identity of journalism."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Safety of journalists</span> Overview article

Safety of journalists is the ability for journalists and media professionals to receive, produce and share information without facing physical or moral threats.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Media independence</span> Absence of external control on a media institution

Media independence is the absence of external control and influence on an institution or individual working in the media. It is a measure of its capacity to "make decisions and act according to its logic," and distinguishes independent media from state media.

Freedom of the press in India is legally protected by the Amendment to the constitution of India, while the sovereignty, national integrity, and moral principles are generally protected by the law of India to maintain a hybrid legal system for independent journalism. In India, media bias or misleading information is restricted under the certain constitutional amendments as described by the country's constitution. The media crime is covered by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which is applicable to all substantive aspects of criminal law.

Freedom of the press in Pakistan is legally protected by the law of Pakistan as stated in its constitutional amendments, while the sovereignty, national integrity, and moral principles are generally protected by the specified media law, Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, and Code of Conduct Rules 2010. In Pakistan, the code of conduct and ordinance act comprises a set of rules for publishing, distributing, and circulating news stories and operating media organizations working independently or running in the country.


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