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Hazel Dick en-Garcia University of Minnesota News standards connote normative qualities, such as accuracy and decency, but the term specifically means the way information is gathered, made into news reports, and presented (Dicken-Garcia 1989). For example, objectivity encompasses six standards: verified facts, fairness, non-bias, independence, non-interpretation, and neutrality (Ward 2004). Journalists develop standards to gain credibility in society, and standards change across space and time. In the US news, for instance, standards changed as the press shifted from partisan to event-centered to commercial during nineteenth-century industrialization. Accuracy and balance, of little concern to partisan journalists, became more important with the shift from producer to consumer society.
Western hegemony spread news standards, which developed with the rise of capitalism and the middle class. The need to sell news profitably required qualities the public would buy, and investments shaped standards as ties to political parties weakened. Around 1900, western journalism also became more about structuring than recording reality, resulting in image politics and an emphasis on objectivity. Whether the press serves primarily the government or the public affects standards. History shows more concern with printing itself than with news standards, especially in authoritarian societies, because rulers feared its permanence and reach. France executed printers for criticizing religion or government as late as 1760. England shaped colonial news standards through libel laws and press licensing, controlled reporting on Parliament until at least 1845, and monitored journalism thereafter. In open societies, norms and the market shape standards, although laws prohibit libel, obscenity, and breach of security.
News standards under conditions of convergence of media systems remain underdeveloped. Old issues re-emerge with new urgency when fact-checking is non-existent and news-gatherers unknown. If Daniel Defoe was not a journalist because he wrote about events he never saw, then determining who is a journalist on the Internet has even greater implications for news standards.
- Dicken-Garcia, H. (1989). Journalistic standards in nineteenth-century America. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
- Dunaway, J. (2011). Institutional effects on the information quality of campaigns news. Journalism Studies, 12(1), 27–44
- Ward, S. J. A. (2004). The invention of journalism ethics. Montreal: McGill Queen’s University Press.
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