Rules of Journalism

Journalism is a necessity in our society. Not just any journalism though, objective journalism is a rarity now and is also needed more than ever. For many, the idea of being an unbiased journalist seems impossible but it isn’t, in fact it is a lot easier than most would think. There are certain rules a true journalist must follow in order to stay objective on the topic. The journalism I am talking about is not that of opinion writers but of news reporters.

1. Write for your readers and for the truth.
This may seem obvious but it isn’t for most reporters. You should not write the story the way your boss or editor would want, but rather write it from the most objective point of view possible. This will let your readers know that you are honest to them even if it means losing a job. This makes journalism hard, you have to be willing to put the truth and your readers ahead of your job and at times you may be forced to choose a side.

2. Do the job you were assigned to do.
Some of the stories you get assigned will not interest you in the least and might even tempt you to just blow it off as long as possible. But these stories are the easiest to stay objective when writing because you are not interested in the topic. This also extends to things that seem obvious but for some reporters are not, like taking notes and collecting interviews.

3. Be selective.
Sometimes you will have pages of notes and hours of interviews while limited to 500 words. For some people having to pump out a 500 word story might sound easy but when you have gathered this much information it can be hard to be selective enough to narrow it down to this length.

4. Dig.
Your editor will not always be able to assign you stories, which is why rule number 4 is to dig. Get to know people from previous interviews and keep in contact with them. Not only could they be helpful in the future but often they will give you a heads up about the story. Some people you will have to annoy to get information out of them and some people you won’t but you have to dig to find the information and story ideas you want.

5. Keep “off the record” information out of your story.
I have seen many journalist fall victim to this rule. It may not seem like much but if someone tells you something off the record, then you cannot put it in your story. If you do you have broken that persons trust and more likely than not you will not be able to get any future information from that person. In extreme cases this can be broken, but only the most extreme cases where you feel the public has every right to know.

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