Journalism is the process of helping a community near its truth

You might confuse journalism with some reported article or radio report or TV segment. That’s because these are among the most common units that make up the process of deploying journalism.

But when pressed to define journalism, as many do for the trade and the practitioners, it’s important to recognize that even the process of providing news and information to a community might not be goal enough. And there are lots more ways to deploy journalism.

To understand the work I’m involved in, I’ve taken to a slightly larger end to define the craft. For a lightning talk at the Online News Association conference in the fall, I shared a definition we’ve used before at work, one depicted above and summed up by saying that:

Journalism is the process of helping a community near the closest approximation of its truth.

The point there is providing news and information does help with that goal, and publishing news articles and radio reports and TV segments can help with that too. So, too, could hosting a community gathering or hosting an award series or creating paid services that fulfill a community’s needs.

If the community you serve isn’t well informed or well intentioned, you have a responsibility. That’s a very challenging and demanding sense of purpose.

With that definition of journalism and the goal for your own work, you might likely approach you responsibility somewhat differently. And that makes all the difference.

2 thoughts on “Journalism is the process of helping a community near its truth”

  1. This is so true, Christopher! I also think that journalist have this social responsibility to keep people up do date and informed…it’s a very though job, with a lot of pressure to handle!

  2. I like this. I would also add that it must be done with love, not the disdain and condescension so visible among many of today’s journalists, especially those in small markets who aspire to be Woodward or Bernstein one day. So I would rephrase slightly: Journalism is the act of helping a community you love become its best self.

    I think this embraces helping the community near its truth, because without that, it cannot make changes, and that too is part of journalism’s mission — to change or correct what is wrong or not working in a community.

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