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Journalism describes the periodic journalistic work of journalists in the press , in online media or on the radio with the aim of creating a public sphere and providing the public with socially relevant information.


Definition of terms

Journalism can be defined on three different levels:

Social level

On a social level, journalism can be viewed as a professional external observation of various areas of society. He makes topics with topicality , factuality and relevance available for public communication through publication. This distinguishes journalism in particular from public relations , advertising and literature .

Organizational level

At the organizational level, media companies and offers continuously produce journalistic communication with topicality, factuality and relevance. Journalism thus differs from media with a lack of periodicity (books) and a lack of facticity (novel booklets, feature films, satirical magazines).

Actor level

At the actor level, journalism is carried out by full-time journalists. For this, a journalist must earn more than half of his income from journalistic work or work more than half of his working time for journalistic media.


Journalists from various media are filming and documenting the speech by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the opening of Documenta 14 in Kassel

Journalism helps shape public opinion . It is therefore often referred to as the fourth power in the state (cf. Fabris 1981). This classification was coined by the British scholar Frederick Knight Hunt in the middle of the 19th century ("The Fourth Estate"). The task of journalism has been reinterpreted time and again throughout history. Journalism is constantly on the move; its constant change creates new problems and new challenges for every generation of journalists.


Journalists from radio, television and the print media interview a politician.

Virtually any modern form of news delivery can serve as a medium for journalism:

Depending on the division, texts, photos , information graphics , original sounds and moving images are used. As a result of digitization, more and more meta media are used by journalists ( search engines , image directories, social networks, portals or Wikipedia) that access or represent texts, data and images from primary media, whereby they often use an incomprehensible selection, order and weighting of these sources make non-transparent algorithms. This means that journalistic work is shifting more and more towards media research at the desk; it is - speaking in terms of system theory - for second-order observation . On the other hand, such a second-order observation makes it possible to contextualize the observations of the primary media and to identify their blind spots. Where the research, evaluation, presentation and analysis of digital data is the focus of journalistic activity, it is also called data journalism .


According to Walther von La Roche (2013) , the journalistic job description is defined within the various media based on the following activities:

Journalists and photographers wait in the locked press zone for the arrival of the prominent guests at the opening of Documenta 14 in Kassel

With the change in the professional profile since the 1990s, management activities and the use of computer technology have come more to the fore for journalists in all of this work.

More and more freelance journalists work in order to be able to finance their living, no longer exclusively in classic journalism, but also in the area of press and public relations . This can lead to a conflict of interest. The research network and other associations and groups therefore demand a strict separation of journalism and press work.


TV broadcast van for the English-language, state-funded TV channel Russia Today in Moscow.

Another differentiator is the type of media funding. Regardless of the media and form of presentation as well as the fields of reporting and roles, a distinction is made between:


According to the journalistic roles, the communication scientists Ulrich Saxer and Siegfried Weischenberg differentiate between

However, these journalistic role models can never be found in ideal-typical forms.

Whenever journalism aims to expand the recipients' action resources, it is referred to as advisory journalism .

A further division is based on the reporting fields ( special interest journalism and specialist journalism ) and departments . Examples: cultural journalism , business journalism , science journalism , technical journalism , local journalism and international reporting .

In addition to these categorizations, there is also the not inconsiderable area of tabloid journalism , which in Germany has the highest circulation newspapers and magazines. However, there is often a dispute about whether tabloid journalism should actually still be regarded as part of journalism or whether it should not be classified as part of the so-called yellow press (also: "Bunte Blätter"), since the boulevard tends to be assigned to the dubious press. The term " theses journalism " is also usually meant derogatory for a form of reporting that aims to attract attention or impact a certain view.

Forms of representation

Regardless of the medium and the categorization, the journalistic forms of presentation remain the same: report, news, report, report, interview, comment, etc. Whereby only the category of information journalism clearly separates information and the presentation of opinions / comments for the reader (1st separation rule).

Sources: Reports from news agencies are often used and, if necessary, shortened or supplemented with the results of our own research . Further methods are personal research, telephone research, archive research and research on the Internet.

In practice, press releases (also: "original texts" or "laundry slips") are often adopted unchanged by companies and institutions. This increases the influence of public relations on journalism. In principle, according to press law, the editorial part of a medium must be created independently of the advertising part (advertising) (2nd separation rule).

New forms of journalism

With social change, new forms of journalism emerge in which journalistic and literary forms are mixed. In their chronological order these are:

New Journalism

The American writer, journalist, art and architecture critic Tom Wolfe coined the term New Journalism in the mid-1960s. He wrote highly subjective reports and relied heavily on literary stylistic devices, even if he correctly stuck to the facts. The style and themes were shaped by the literature of the Beat Generation of the 1950s. The reporters of New Journalism wrote about the new subcultures of pop music or the drug scene and mixed up the usual political reporting with their radicalism.

Gonzo journalism

The gonzo journalism was a decade later a step further than the New Journalism . In the early 1970s, the eccentric American writer and reportage journalist Hunter S. Thompson reported not only from his subjective point of view - he consistently mixed real, autobiographical and fictitious experiences. Because gonzo journalism uses sarcasm, swear words, polemics and quotations as stylistic elements, according to journalistic criteria it is not a journalistic form, but literature.

Ambush journalism

By Ambush Journalism mid-1990s was a form far away from the neutral reporting, but also by the literary forms of journalism. The Ambush journalists “attack” exponents from politics and business suddenly and in front of the camera with aggressive questions, psychological and sometimes physical pressure (“on the skin”). American TV programs such as The O'Reilly Factor and 60 Minutes became known with this style . This journalistic practice polarizes because some criticize ambush journalism as unethical, while others defend it as the only way to obtain certain information.

Data journalism

Data journalism (Data Driven Journalism, DDJ) is a combination of research approach and a new form of publication. Machine-readable information is linked and analyzed using software. The result is used, for example, as the basis for interactive visualizations. These are published with the data record and explanations of the context and commented with text, audio or video.

Constructive journalism

The term constructive journalism was coined in the Scandinavian region by journalists such as Cathrine Gyldensted and Ulrik Haagerup . Thereby positive developments are reported deliberately in order to prevent a one-sided negative worldview among the readers. Problems are not ignored, but expanded to include a discussion of possible solutions.

The news value "conflict" creates a journalistic negative bias. This should be avoided through constructive journalism. The reporting should be characterized by a constructive - and therefore more realistic - instead of a negative basic attitude. Examples include the evening news format # Solution Finder or the ZDF -Dokureihe Plan B .

A first study shows that media users show a better understanding, a higher interest in the problem portrayed and a greater willingness to act.

Slow down journalism

When journalism slows down, breaking news and gimmicks are deliberately avoided and the focus is instead on context and analysis.

Media law and media ethics

Media law includes freedom of the press in the Basic Law . The legal basis of journalistic activity can be found in the state press laws of the respective federal states. The Interstate Broadcasting Treaty applies to broadcasting and the Telemedia Act for online media . In addition, the journalist must observe personal rights and copyrights in his daily work . If a publication violates this framework, action can be taken for damages and injunctive relief. In principle, there is a right of reply . The media are obliged to indicate responsible persons in the imprint .

The use of meta media such as search engines that tap and publish content from primary media leads to new copyright and liability issues.

Media ethics should assume a steering function with regard to responsibility in media companies. The German , Austrian and Swiss press councils are self-binding supervisory bodies . They check compliance with the self-created journalistic codes and reprimand - without any legal consequences - violations. Relevant codes include: Press Code , Code of Honor for the Austrian Press , Declaration of Duties and Rights.

Training of journalists

Science and Research

In 1916 the first German institute for newspaper studies was founded at the University of Leipzig. The subject of journalism is now often integrated into media studies or communication studies .

Cross-cultural comparison



The understanding of the role of journalists is strongly influenced by historical, political and sociocultural factors, but also by a variety of targeted influences. Using the example of reporting on the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Florian Meißer shows the different understandings of roles and different ways of thinking of Japanese and German journalists.

See also

Portal: Media Studies  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of media studies


Web links

Wiktionary: Journalism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Siegfried Weischenberg / Maja Malik / Armin Scholl: Journalism in Germany 2005. (PDF; 306 kB) (No longer available online.) Ifk Institute for Communication Studies, 2006, archived from the original on June 2, 2010 ; Retrieved February 1, 2010 .
  2. ^ Martin spoon wood: theories of journalism. University of Trier, April 13, 2006, accessed on January 25, 2010 .
  3. Ulrike Langer: Journalists as Founders: Do Schools of Journalism prepare their graduates for it? (No longer available online.) Medial Digital, 2006, archived from the original on January 14, 2010 ; Retrieved January 11, 2010 .
  4. ^ IVW - information community for the determination of the distribution of advertising media e. V .: Downloads. IVW, 2012, accessed December 9, 2012 .
  5. Lorenz Matzat: Data Driven Journalism: Attempt at a Definition ( Memento from November 29, 2010 in the Internet Archive ). In: Open Data Network. April 13, 2010.
  6. Alexander L. Curry, Keith H. Hammonds: The Power of Solutions Journalism ( Memento of March 18, 2015 in the Internet Archive ). Accessed December 24, 2015 (PDF).
  7. Le Masurier, Megan (2015). What is Slow Journalism ?. Journalism Practice. 9 (2): 138-152. doi: 10.1080 / 17512786.2014.916471
  8. Declaration of duties and rights ( Memento of December 12, 2004 in the Internet Archive )
  9. Florian Meißner: Cultures of disaster reporting: An interview study on the Fukushima crisis in German and Japanese media. Springer VS, 2019.
  10. ^ Website with more information on La Roche's Introduction to Practical Journalism