Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Idioms, Wikipedia.


journalism, the collection and periodic publication or transmission of news through media such as newspaper, periodical, television, and radio.


The importance of journalism in modern society has been testified to by the establishment of schools of journalism at most of the world's leading universities. The earliest in the United States was established at the Univ. of Wisconsin (1905). Other early schools were at the Univ. of Missouri (1908) and Columbia Univ., whose school of journalism was endowed in 1903 but did not open until 1912. American schools of journalism have proliferated throughout the 20th cent.

Print Journalism

Journalism dates at least from the Acta Diurna of Rome (a series of public announcements that can be considered the prototype of the modern newspaper), but it was not until the 15th cent. that the invention of printing made possible its rapid growth. Daniel Defoe has been called the first journalist, as distinct from a writer. Modern journalism, however, began in the latter years of the 18th cent. with each venture serving, as it does in many countries to this day, as the proponent and voice of a political party or social group. Even in the 19th cent. journalists, despite their increased liberties in England and the United States, were largely controlled by political parties.

Except where it is under totalitarian state control, journalism has never been a monolithic enterprise, but has ranged as it continues to do from sensational pseudofact and scandal to high-quality reporting, evaluation, and opinion. Enterprising American newspaper editors in the mid-19th cent. influenced other journalistic media (e.g., the muckraking magazine and the independent periodical).

Technological Advance, Journalistic Change

Changes in journalism in the 20th cent. were fueled by technological advances: the teletypewriter (1904); long-range radio reception (1913); television (1930s–40s); communications satellite (1960s) transmission of data, voice, and video. Almost every new application in communications, data storage and retrieval, and image processing affects the way people get their news. While the influence of the print journalist may have declined in the face of technological advances and the growth of the news agency, radio reporters, such as Edward R. Murrow in the 1940s; television news broadcasters, such as Walter Cronkite from the 1950s through the 1970s; and many later television anchors and reporters became familiar names reporting events as they happened (e.g., the London blitz, funeral of John F. Kennedy, manned moon landing, Gulf and Iraq wars).

Television Journalism

By broadcasting events such as the Watergate hearings, controversial Supreme Court nomination hearings, and sensational criminal trials, television has in some ways minimized the journalist. Yet reports by journalists of the World Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Cable News Network, owned by Ted Turner and based in Atlanta, are transmitted around the world and provide news to world leaders in times of crisis.

The proliferation of cable television in the United States since the mid-1970s has led to a variety of news channels. As with print journalism, television journalism ranges from sensational, “tabloid” news shows (“Inside Edition”) to extensive journalistic coverage and interviews with government figures (“The Newshour with Jim Lehrer”) to a cable channel offering live, unedited coverage of congressional proceedings (C-SPAN).


See J. Hohenberg, The New Front Page (1966); A. K. MacDougall, ed., The Press (1972); R. A. Rutland, The Newsmongers (1973); D. Halberstam, The Powers that Be (1979); E. Diamond, Sign Off (1982); P. Seib, Who's in Charge? (1989); E. Case, The Press (1989); E. Bliss, Now the News: The Story of Broadcast Journalism (1991).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a public activity involving the gathering, handling, and dissemination of news through such mass media as the press, radio, television, and motion pictures; also one of the forms through which mass propaganda and agitation are conducted. The information disseminated by journalistic means ought to have social significance for the audience, help form its opinions on public affairs and its world outlook, and give it some idea of the phenomena, processes, and tendencies of all phases of modern society. The information should also reveal the laws that determine the functioning and development of economic, social, political, ideological, and intellectual life in society.

Journalism has a class character in a class society and operates above all to meet certain social and political goals that are in accord with certain class interests and with social, political, moral, and other ideas engendered by these interests. In accordance with the class structure of a society and its political groupings and parties, various branches of journalism arise to express or convey the politics and ideology of these groups. In his article “The Communists and Karl Heinzen” Engels described the tasks of party journalism, noting that it ought “first of all to hold discussions, support, develop, and defend the demands of the party, and reject and refute the pretentions and assertions of the opposing party” (Marx and Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4, p. 271).

The Russian word zhurnalistika derives from the French word journal (diary, newspaper) and corresponds to the German word Journalistik and the English word “journalism.” In Russia the term was originally applied to the totality of journals, but by the mid-19th century it was used for periodical publications. Today the term refers to the en-tire range of journalistic activity, all the professions involved in it, and the corresponding field of learning and instruction—journalism as an academic discipline.

The rudimentary forms of gathering and disseminating news to influence people in certain ideological and psychological directions goes far back in the past. Specific accounts or summaries of information were transmitted more or less regularly both verbally—by orators and town criers—and in written form—for example, papyruses with news of the day in ancient Egypt, announcements posted in the public centers of ancient Rome, and handwritten news summaries that were the immediate predecessors of the newspaper in various countries, including Russia.

In such printed forms as the newspaper, the magazine, and the leaflet, journalism arose and progressed rapidly in the early 17th century at the time of the political, economic, and ideological struggle of the rising bourgeoisie against feudalism. Journalism took on special importance during the Russian Revolution (see BOLSHEVIK PRESS). With the invention of photography and motion pictures in the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century, new forms of journalism—photojournalism and film journalism—appeared. Since the achievements in radio engineering in the 1920’s, there has been a dramatic growth in radio journalism; the same has been true with regard to television journalism since the 1940’s. In the modern era of intensified ideological struggle between the forces of progress and imperialist reaction, the role of radio and television journalism, which knows no state boundaries, has increased substantially.

The aim of journalism of every kind is, in the definition of Marx and Engels, “to reflect current history in all of its fullness”(ibid., vol. 7, p. 1). Yet each journalistic medium (the particular newspaper, magazine, radio program, or television program) selects one aspect or feature of this many-sided subject matter. This accounts for the great variety of types of journalism. Depending on which aspect of life attention is directed toward in a given journal, publicistic, artistic, scientific, or other works will be combined or featured in a special way. Thus, social and political journalism, covering a wide range of contemporary themes and problems addresses itself to the needs of various strata in the mass audience for up-to-date social information and makes use primarily of publicistic forms. But certain scientific, artistic, and other works that touch on important social problems are also published.

The Marxist-Leninist theory of journalism proceeds upon the premise that a truly objective picture of reality that can give reliable social information for the masses (knowledge of the contemporary society, the moving forces of its development, and social laws) can be provided only by a journalism that adheres to a communist party point of view and expresses the interests of the forces that are the vehicles of social progress and thereby represent historical truth. The communist party spirit of such journalism predetermines its principles of proletarian internationalism, socialist patriotism, and humanism. Under the leadership of the communist and workers’ parties, Marxist journalism carries on propaganda, agitation, and organizational activity corresponding to the fundamental interests of the working people, basing itself on Marxist methodology in the representation of social phenomena.

Soviet journalism, which discusses and tries to solve problems in all areas of life of importance to socialist society, constantly strives for increased effectiveness in its work, an indication that its role in managing social processes is growing. Lenin’s demand that the press be converted from a medium of sensationalism or a simple apparatus for transmitting political news into an instrument for the economic reeducation of the masses applies to all types of socialist journalism. As early as the first years of Soviet power Lenin called for “less political ballyhoo. … closer to life. More attention to the way in which the workers and peasants are actually building the new in their everyday work and more verification so as to ascertain the extent to which the new is communistic”(Ppln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 37, p. 91).

While expressing the interests of the proletariat, Marxist journalism appears as a journalism truly of the people. Its popular nature is shown in its defense of the interests of those classes and strata of society that at a given stage of social development appear as allies of the working class in the struggle for democracy and socialist transformations. In the socialist countries journalism is one of the forms by which democracy is realized, a fact expressed in the active participation of the masses in journalistic activity. Many letters from working people are published, and discussions are organized around the most important party, state, and other documents.

An enormously important role in Soviet journalism is played by the multitude of voluntary contributors, many million strong—the worker and village correspondents, military correspondents, and so forth. There is a widening circle of public contributors and members of voluntary departments and editorial boards—of scientists, cultural figures, and people working in all spheres of the national economy—for whom journalism has become a second profession and a way of expressing their social activism.

Bourgeois journalism tries to hide its class nature under the pretense of being “above classes” and “outside all parties” and tries to portray itself as some sort of “objective” source of information independent of contending social forces, speaking as a commentator from a “universal human” stand-point. The Marxist theory of journalism exposes these pretenses, showing that objectivity in journalism is attainable not by feigning separation from the class struggle but by expressing and defending the interests of those forces that are vehicles of progress and that embody the requirements of further social development. Inasmuch as the interests of the modern monopoly bourgeoisie fundamentally contradict social progress, bourgeois journalism cannot give a true picture of reality or orient its readership objectively. It resorts to various devices to disorient and misinform. However, there are cases when, as Lenin noted, the bourgeois journalist feels that “there is no sense in lying” and then he “is telling the truth, is warning the capitalists” (ibid., vol. 32, p. 36). However, “a popular method always used by the bourgeois press in every country with unerring effect is to lie, scream, raise a hullabaloo, and keep on reiterating lies on the off-chance that ‘something may stick.’ It is the capitalists and the capitalist press who are making a great noise . . . trying to shout down the truth, to prevent it from being heard, to drown it in a torrent of invective and shouts, to prevent an earnest elucidation of the facts”(ibid., vol. 31, p. 217).

The bourgeois press, radio, and television are major capitalist enterprises that have been transformed into instruments of profit under the financial and political control of the monopolies. The capitalists also control bourgeois journalism indirectly, financing it through advertising. The state exerts considerable influence on journalism by “managing” the news. Especially during parliamentary and presidential election campaigns, the press, radio, and television in capitalist countries provide opportunities for representatives of political forces struggling for power to present their views. These representatives do not hesitate to lie, slander, and twist the facts in their “polemics.” The skirmishes between opposing parties and rival monopolies are held up by bourgeois ideologists as proof of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. These claims are false.

Bourgeois journalism uses juridical freedoms for reactionary ends, to preserve a social system that is not in the interests of the people, and to fight against progressive forces, and thus in a social and historical sense bourgeois journalism is not free. As Lenin noted, “all over the world, wherever there are capitalists, freedom of the press means freedom to buy up newspapers, to buy up writers, to bribe, buy, and fake ‘public opinion’ for the benefit of the bourgeoisie” (ibid., vol. 44, p. 79). Under these conditions those journalists who are personally honest and who seek to be truthful and humane have a difficult life. They must either recognize the downfall of their illusions and reconcile themselves to the role of resignedly carrying out their bosses’ will, or they must go over to the side of Marxist journalism.

The existence of a communist press in a number of capitalist states—access to television and radio is denied to communists in some countries, and in others is strictly limited—testifies not to any “freedom of the press” but to the fact that the bourgeoisie in these countries is no longer strong enough to suppress the communist press. Nevertheless the communist press is forced continually to struggle for its existence, to overcome material difficulties and obstacles in obtaining information and building circulation. In capitalist countries with undisguised reactionary regimes, communist journalism is savagely persecuted and forced to exist illegally. The progressive press of democratic organizations also confronts enormous obstacles.

In socialist countries journalism is truly free, for it enjoys legal rights in the name of the struggle for progressive social development in accordance with objective historical laws. According to the Constitution of the USSR, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are guaranteed to all citizens when used “in conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system” (art. 125). Punishable under Soviet law are anti-Soviet propaganda, propaganda advocating war or racial or national hatred, disclosure of military or state secrets, libel and slander, and pornography. Thus the responsibility of Soviet journalism to Soviet society is assured.

As Marx expressed it, journalism is called upon to convey “all of the dramatic tension that accompanies every process of becoming and that above all accompanies the process of contemporary history in formation” (Marx and Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 1, p. 172). The need to systematically influence the audience under constantly changing conditions is the determining factor in making journalism periodical, as it typically is from the radio news broadcast at every half hour to the weekly or other periodically printed publication. In this connection it is also necessary for journalism to be concise and timely.

Journalism must respond to all the urgent problems, phenomena, and events of the modern world. Thus an issue of a newspaper or magazine, a radio or television program, or a newsreel consists of a collection of pieces on various subjects, produced in different genres and styles, which Lenin called, in the case of newspapers, “the concert of a political newspaper”(seePoln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 47, p. 134). In addition, special issues or programs on particular subjects are published. Leaflets usually consist of only a single literary product. Publications or programming, even particular issues or broadcasts, can be addressed either to the entire potential audience or to particular strata or groups (according to profession, interest, age, sex). If the work of all branches of journalism are coordinated, every stratum or group in the population is able to learn the social or, specialized information that it needs by turning to particular newspapers, magazines, or radio and television programs.

Journalistic activity functions as a system of relations between publisher, journalist, and audience. The publisher develops the overall ideological orientation and organizes the work. An entire body or range of expectations is formed in the audience depending on its social position, interests, and desire for knowledge; this may be an actual audience—that is, one already formed—or a potential audience—one that the publisher wishes to attract.

Journalism is most effective when the publisher’s aims are in accord with audience expectations. There is an essential difference between bourgeois journalism and Marxist journalism in approach. In addressing itself to a mass audience, bourgeois journalism relies on the audience’s interests that it can use to manipulate public opinion and spread anticommunist views or bourgeois ideas and standards of behavior. Marxist journalism takes into account audience expectations in order to provide the masses with a reliable orientation to reality and develop their consciousness. Marx wrote of the Rheinische Zeitung, “the unparalleled speed with which this newspaper circulated shows how well it understood the de-sires of the people” (Marx and Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 27, p. 593).

Journalism is a collective activity. “The newspaper correspondent may regard himself only as a part within a highly complex organism, in which he chooses his own particular function freely,” Marx wrote. “For example, one correspondent may present firsthand impressions, gathered from talking with the people, describing their impoverished conditions. Another, of historical bent, may delve into the history of the situation that has developed. An emotional person may give a description of what it is like to live in poverty itself. An economist may discuss the means necessary to abolish poverty. Thus this single question may be approached from various points of view—on the local level, in relation to the state as a whole, and so on. Thus where the press is lively and active the truth as a whole is revealed . … Thus the press, step by step, by means of the division of labor, brings out the whole truth not by having one person do everything but by having each of many people do a single small job”(ibid., vol. 1, p. 188).

The specific nature of journalism requires professionally and ideologically trained cadres. Communist journalists are characterized by ideological profundity, devotion to principle, initiative and militancy, intransigence toward ideological opponents, and the ability to apply Marxist methodology in analyzing public events, to quickly and efficiently orient themselves in a developing situation, to lay bare the causes behind actions and events, to analyze documents, and as a result, in the words of Engels, “to grasp things quickly from the proper angle”(ibid., vol. 35, p. 150).

The ever more complex processes of social life, the,advances of the scientific and technological revolutión, and the developments in all fields of knowledge create a need for journalists to specialize in particular spheres of science, technology, and culture and to master the art of popularized explanation. For a journalist the main criteria of literary craftsmanship are the ability to develop a theme consistently, to present the necessary proofs to support certain conclusions, and to use both rational and emotional techniques in presenting material. As Marx said, “the press regards the conditions of life of the people from the point of view of reason but to no less degree from the point of view of feeling. Thus it speaks not only in the rational language of criticism … but also in the passion-filled language of life itself (ibid., vol. 1, p. 206).

Simplicity, clarity, and precision in narrative, accessibility of thought and image for wide masses, persuasiveness and vividness of presentation—these are the distinguishing features of the great masters of revolutionary journalism who devoted to their work all the power of their analytical reason, all the passion of their spirit, and their unshakable faith in the ultimate victory of communist ideas.

In many countries journalists are organized in professional associations (in the USSR, the Journalists1 Union of the USSR). The unions of journalists in the socialist countries and many progressive journalism associations in the capitalist and developing countries participate in the work of the International Organization of Journalists, founded in 1946 with headquarters in Prague. Democratic journalists from 84 countries attended its Seventh Congress in Havana in 1971. The organization publishes the magazine Democratic Journalist. Since 1958, September 8 has been observed as the Journalists’ International Day of Solidarity in honor of the Czechoslovak Communist journalist J. Fucik, executed by the Hitlerites on Sept. 8, 1943.

A rival organization of people who had split from the International Organization of Journalists was founded in 1952 and was called the International Federation of Journalists. This group was joined by journalists’ organizations from such countries as the USA, Great Britain, France, West Germany, Belgium, Canada, and Sweden.

In the USSR there are a number of specialized magazines that deal with questions of journalistic theory and practice, including Zhurnalist (Journalist), Raboche-krest’ianskii kor-respondent (Worker-Peasant Correspondent), Televidenie i radioveshchanie (Television and Radio), Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo), Zhurnalistika (Journalism; series 11 of the publication Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta}, and the annual Voprosy teorii i praktiki massovykh sredstv propagandy (Problems of Theory and Practice in Mass Propaganda Media; issues 1–4, 1968–71).


Marx, K., and F. Engels. O pechati. Moscow, 1963.
Lenin, V. I. O pechati. Moscow, 1959.
O partiinoi i sovetskoi pechati, radioveshchanii i televidenii: Sb. dokumentov i materialov. Moscow, 1972.
Berezhnoi, A. F. Leninskie printsipy sovetskoi pechati. Leningrad, 1970.
Kunitsyn, G. I. V. /. Lenin o partiinosti i svobode pechati. Moscow, 1971.
Prokhorov, E. P. “Klassovosf zhurnalistiki.” Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta: Ser. Zhurnalistika, 1971, issues 4 and 6.
Fedchenko, P. M. Presa ta ii poperednyky. Kiev, 1969.
Bogdanov, N., and B. Viazemskii. Spravochnik zhurnalista. Leningrad, 1971.
lurovskii, A. la., and R. A. Boretskii. Osnovy televizionnoi zhurnalistiki. Moscow, 1966.
Bagirov, E., and I. Katsev. Televidenie: XX vek. Moscow, 1968.
Beglov, S. I. Monopolii slova. Moscow, 1969.
Sovremennye burzhuaznye teorii zhurnalistiki: Sb. statei. Edited by la. N. Zasurskii. Moscow, 1967.
Mass Communications Dictionary. Edited by H. B. Jacobson. New York, 1961.
Mass Communications. Edited by W. Schramm. Urbana [1963].
Reader in Public Opinion and Communication. New York [1966].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
--2014, 'Research Degrees in Journalism: What is an Exegesis?', Pacific Journalism Review, vol.
Interested parties may reach the UST Graduate School (+632-7315396, as well as inquire the coordinator of the UST Journalism program (
The humanitarian journalism award was presented to Sana Bokhlis of the 'Morocco today' magazine against her Rocherha people article while Khurshid Harfoush, a journalist with Al Ittihad newspaper won the specialised journalism award for his article 'Terrorism distorts the minds of children'.
'The handbook will be available across Nigerian institutions and I am certain that readers of this handbook will be the next phase of journalism in their respective schools.'
Last time the journalism awards were held was in 2006 under the Media Institute of Southern Africa.
Those were the sessions that some 13 journalism professors and students from mainland China listened to.
The undergraduate enrollment at UIUC's journalism program in the College of Media fell from 2013 to 2018.
According to Missouri School of Journalism website, 'Some of the best journalists in the world have learned their profession through the Missouri Method, which provides practical hands-on training in real-world news media and strategic communication agencies.
He pointed out that "data Journalism is the future of journalism.
To support the public purpose of journalism through more investment in public service media.
However, not surprisingly, things do change, both in the countries and in their journalism. The three essays in this issue of Communication Research Trends provide an update on the journalism of Asia and Africa.