Special Issue 2001

The Elements of Journalism

In “The Elements of Journalism,” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel describe nine principles of journalism that speak to the essential responsibilities of journalists, the standards informing their work, and the role of a free press in a functioning democracy. Nieman Reports invited U.S. and international journalists to write short reflective essays about how these principles affect their work. Their insightful commentaries are paired with excerpts from the book to create a valuable teaching tool and classroom resource.

‘The Elements of Journalism’
Introduction
'The News Has Become the News’
Influential voices spotlight failures and remedies for today’s journalists.
By Michael Getler
Principle One
Journalism’s First Obligation Is to Tell the Truth
Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
Making Truth an Idea That Journalists Can Believe in Again
‘Every journalist knows that truth can make nonnegotiable demands.’
By Jack Fuller
The Pursuit of Truth Can Be Elusive in Africa
Independent journalists are branded unpatriotic and anti-government.
By Gwen Lister
Principle Two
Journalism’s First Loyalty Is to Citizens
Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
Inviting Viewers to Enter the Newsroom
With its Viewers’ Bill of Rights, KGUN9-TV in Arizona broke new ground.
By Forrest Carr
KGUN9 Viewers’ Bill of Rights
Loving and Cussing: the Family Newspaper (1 comment)
It’s a place where community and citizens come before big profits.
By Brandt Ayers
Principle Three
The Essence of Journalism Is a Discipline of Verification
Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
Accuracy Must Be Our Journalistic Grail
Editors at The Oregonian make writers pause and verify before publication.
By Michele McLellan
Determining the Line Between Fact and Fiction
In broadcast news, compelling TV and good journalism can coexist.
By Olive Talley
Principle Four
Journalists Must Maintain an Independence From Those They Cover (1 comment)
Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
In Crisis, Journalists Relinquish Independence
‘Ideological biases can overtake the desire to be independent.’
By Ying Chan
Retaining Independence Isn’t Easy for Journalists
But protection of sources can cheat the public and betray the truth.
By Robert Blau
Curator's Corner
Creating a Road Map for Journalism’s Mission
Journalists reflect on nine core principles.
By Bob Giles
Principle Five
Journalists Must Serve as an Independent Monitor of Power (1 comment)
Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
Investigative Journalism Can Still Thrive at Newspapers
It requires fierce determination, hard work, some guerrilla tactics, and thick skin.
By Loretta Tofani
Press Failure to Watchdog Can Have Devastating Consequences
Every news organization should monitor the powerful in the public interest.
By Murrey Marder
Principle Six
Journalism Must Provide a Forum for Public Criticism and Comment (1 comment)
Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
When the Public Speaks, Do Journalists Listen?
‘I don’t recognize myself or anyone I know in your newspaper.’
By Geneva Overholser
Is Journalism Losing Its Place in the Boisterous Public Forum?
An editor finds an appetite for serious conversation. Media ought to respond.
By Christine Chinlund
Principle Seven
Journalists Must Make the Significant Interesting and Relevant
Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
Why Has Journalism Abandoned Its Observer’s Role?
‘The mirrorer was viewed as fat to be trimmed, and was.’
By Jon Franklin
Journalists Engage Readers By Learning Who They Are
Newsrooms should know more than marketers do about their audiences.
By Melanie Sill
Principle Eight
Journalists Should Keep the News in Proportion and Make It Comprehensive
Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
The Absence of Memory Hurts Journalism
Short-term investors stifle investment in long-term and necessary research.
By Philip Meyer
A Newspaper Strives to Make Its Coverage Complete
The new approach works but reporters feel constricted by its rigidity.
By Mike Connor
Principle Nine
Journalists Have an Obligation to Personal Conscience
Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
Journalists Need Help With Ethical Decisions
In today’s newsrooms, there are plenty to be made.
By Carol Marin
Refusing to Take the Easier Route
Journalists have an important social contract to uphold.
By Mark G. Chavunduka