Wednesday, August 24, 2005

News and journalism

News is reported by newspapers, television and radio programs, Web sites, RSS feeds and wire services. News reporting is a type of journalism, typically written or broadcast in news style. Most news is investigated and presented by journalists (or reporters) and often distributed via news agencies. If the content of news is significant enough, it eventually becomes history.
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News items and journalism can be divided in various ways, although there are gray areas. Distinctions include that between hard news (more serious and timely topics) and soft news (usually lighter topics); breaking news (most immediate); news analysis; and enterprise or investigative reporting.
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News coverage often includes the "five W's and the H" -- who, what, where, when, why, and how.
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In democracies, news organizations are often expected to aim for objectivity: Reporters cover both sides in a controversy and try to eliminate bias. This is not true of all organizations in all cultures. For instance, British television news is required to be objective, but the newspapers are expected to have a point of view. However, limits are set by the government agency Ofcom, the Office of Communications. The United Kingdom has stricter libel laws than the United States for the press. In contrast, both newspapers and broadcast news programs in the United States are generally expected to remain neutral and avoid bias except for clearly indicated editorial articles or segments.
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Many single-party countries have operated state-run news organizations, which may present the government's views. Even in those situations where objectivity is expected, it is difficult to achieve, and individual journalists may fall foul of their own personal bias, or succumb to commercial or political pressures. Individuals and organizations who are the subject of news reports may use news management techniques to try to make a favourable impression.
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Journalism is a discipline of collecting, verifying, analyzing and presenting information gathered regarding current events, including trends, issues and people. Those who practice journalism are known as journalists.
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News-oriented journalism often is described as the "first draft of history." Even though journalists often write news articles to a deadline, news media usually edit and proofread the results prior to publication.
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Journalism has as its main activity the reporting of events -- stating who, what, when, where, why and how, and explaining the significance and effect of events or trends. Journalism exists in a number of media: newspapers, television, radio, magazines and, since the end of 20th century, the Internet.
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Generally, publishers and consumers of journalism draw a distinction between reporting ("just the facts") and opinions (such as editorials, (the official opinions of the paper) and op-ed columns ("opposite the editorial page" commentary)). However, this distinction sometimes can break down. Journalists may unintentionally fall prey to propaganda or disinformation. (See News management.) Journalists may give a biased account of facts by reporting selectively, for instance, focusing on anecdote or giving partial explanation of actions. Foreign reporting may become more susceptible to bias, because the writers or editors of a newspaper in a given geographical area may find it more difficult to fact-check reports originating at a distance.
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Newspapers and periodicals often will contain features (see under heading feature style at article news style) written by journalists, many of whom specialize in this form of "in-depth" journalism.
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Journalists' interaction with sources sometimes involves confidentiality. Many Western governments guarantee the freedom of the press. By extension, these freedoms sometimes also add legal protection for journalists, allowing them to keep the identity of a source private even when demanded by police or prosecutors.
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Recently there has been some controversy as to whether blogging constitutes a form of journalism. There have been arguments on both sides of the debate further fueled by a March 2005 court ruling in a case involving Apple Computer and several Apple rumor blogs. In that ruling the judge declared that the blogs were not entitled to journalist protections with regards to preserving the anonymity of sources because they don't qualify as a form of journalism. This set a legal precedent.
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Mass media is the term used to denote, as a class, that section of the media specifically conceived and designed to reach a very large audience (typically at least as large as the whole population of a nation state). It was coined in the 1920s with the advent of nationwide radio networks and of mass-circulation newspapers and magazines. The mass-media audience has been viewed by some commentators as forming a mass society with special characteristics, notably atomization or lack of social connections, which render it especially susceptible to the influence of modern mass-media techniques such as advertising and propaganda.
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Media (the plural of medium) is a truncation of the term media of communication, referring to those organized means of dissemination of fact, opinion, entertainment, and other information, such as newspapers, magazines, cinema films, radio, television, the World Wide Web, billboards, books, Compact discs, DVDs, videocassettes, and other forms of publishing. Although writers currently change in their preference for using media in the singular ("the media is...") or the plural ("the media are..."), the former will still incur criticism in some situations. (Please see data for a similar example.) Academic programs for the study of mass media are usually referred to as mass communication programs.
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