What makes journalism different than other forms of communication?

The world, and especially the online world, is awash in communication.

The vast majority of this communication, however, is not news and especially not journalism. Almost 70 percent of email traffic is spam, according to web security company Symantec. In 2012, there were an average of 175 million tweets each day. But almost all – 99% — consisted of “pointless babble,” according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

While journalism occupies a much smaller space than the talk, entertainment, opinion, assertion, advertising and propaganda that dominate the media universe, it is nevertheless perceived as being more valuable than most of the “stuff out there.”

That value flows from its purpose, to provide people with verified information they can use to make better decisions, and its practices, the most important of which is a systematic process – a discipline of verification – that journalists use to find not just the facts, but also the “truth about the facts.”


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.