What does a journalist do?

Asking who is a journalist is the wrong question, because journalism can be produced by anyone.

At the same time, merely engaging in journalistic-like activity – snapping a cell-phone picture at the scene of a fire or creating a blog site for news and comment – does not by itself produce a journalistic product. Though it can and sometimes does, there is a distinction between the act of journalism and the end result.

The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds.


This guide, like many of the others in API’s Journalism Essentials section, is largely based on the research and teachings of the Committee of Concerned Journalists — a consortium of reporters, editors, producers, publishers, owners and academics that for 10 years facilitated a discussion among thousands of journalists about what they did, how they did it, and why it was important. The author, Walter Dean, was CCJ training director and API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel formerly co-chaired the committee.