How to be a journalist

A practical guide for new and experienced publishers.

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What is journalism?

The definition of journalism can be a matter of controversy.

State affiliated institutions have an incentive to delegitimise independent media because of the influence that media has on public perception and the democratic process.

According to Britannica journalism is:

“The collection, preparation, and distribution of news, related commentary and feature materials through print and electronic media.”

A journalist is therefore someone who engages in this activity in a principled manner.

Citizen journalism

Citizen journalism is already wide spread. We encounter it every time we see a post on social media that shares noteworthy information.

We engage in citizen journalism every time we record and distribute noteworthy information, including personal views or comments, in a casual or informal manner.

Though casual publication has the benefit of being widely accessible, issues can arise including:

  • Sharing incomplete or unverified information.
  • Sharing sensitive information resulting in unintended harm.

Therefore we recommend those pursing journalism to formalise their publication with the following guidance:

Getting started

Things to consider before publishing:

  • Media type and publication focus: What will be your primary media type? For example, audio, video, text, etc. What will be the focus of your publication? For example, current events, political commentary, local news, etc.
  • Public or private: Will you choose to identify yourself as the author of your publication, or will you choose to remain anonymous?
  • Journalistic principles and ethics: What standards will you hold yourself to when publishing? This is discussed further in the next section.
  • Censorship-resistant publishing: Will the platform that you publish on censor you? This is discussed further below.
  • Online security basics: Will you accidentally release sensitive information by using insecure technology? This is discussed further below.

Journalism ethics

The New Zealand Journalists’ Association Code of Ethics issued in 1967.

“Members of all Journalists’ Unions affiliated to the New Zealand Journalists’ Association are reminded of the need to observe the following Code of Ethics in the course of their employment.

  • To report and interpret the news honestly.
  • To promote, through their conduct full public confidence in the integrity and dignity of their calling.
  • To observe professional secrecy in matter revealed in confidence to the furthest limits of law or conscience.
  • To use only honest methods to obtain news, pictures and documents.
  • Never to accept any form of bribe, either to publish or to suppress.
  • To reveal their identity as members of the Press when not to do so would be contrary to ethical standards.
  • Not to suppress essential fact, and not to distort the truth by omission or wrongful emphasis.
  • To observe at all times the fraternity of their profession and never take unfair advantage of a fellow journalist.
  • To accept no compulsion to intrude on private grief.”

Journalism principles

In the below section Free online courses there are multiple resources covering important aspects of journalism. It is recommended that you familiarise yourself with these resources. We will highlight some points here briefly:

  • Include information sources.
  • Be fair, impartial, truthful and accurate.
  • Don’t publish unverified information.
  • Maintain independence from who you cover.

Censorship-resistant publishing

It is recommended to publish primarily on a platform that does not engage in arbitrary censorship. You can then forward or repost your publication to a mainstream platform.

Censorship-resistant platform recommendations:

Online security basics

Recommended things to consider to increase your digital security:

  • Image meta data: Images contain meta data that can reveal sensitive information. There are tools that can remove image meta data.
  • VPN: A VPN encrypts data entering and leaving your device, giving you privacy from your ISP. A VPN also hides your true IP address from websites that you visit.
  • Encrypted email: Email providers that use encryption to ensure that you are the only one who can access your emails.
  • Strong unique passwords and 2FA: Passwords can be attacked in many ways. Having a strong password protects against brute force attacks. Having unique passwords protects against password harvesting from insecure services.
  • Secure browser: Browsers that do not collect personal information and that block trackers.

NZ Media Community

If you are publishing in an independent capacity you are welcome to join the NZ Media Community. A place where independent media producers can support and collaborate with each other! Contact the editor for a link to join.