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Advocacy journalism

Advocacy journalism

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Encyclopedia
Advocacy journalism is a genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 of journalism
Journalism
Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

 that intentionally and transparently adopts a non-objective viewpoint, usually for some social or political purpose. Because it is intended to be factual, it is distinguished from propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

. It is also distinct from instances of media bias
Media bias
Media bias refers to the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the...

 and failures of objectivity
Objectivity (journalism)
Parent article: Journalism ethics and standardsObjectivity is a significant principle of journalistic professionalism. Journalistic objectivity can refer to fairness, disinterestedness, factuality, and nonpartisanship, but most often encompasses all of these qualities.- Definitions :In the context...

 in media outlets, which attempt to be—or which present themselves as—objective or neutral.

Traditionally, advocacy and criticism are restricted to editorial
Editorial
An opinion piece is an article, published in a newspaper or magazine, that mainly reflects the author's opinion about the subject. Opinion pieces are featured in many periodicals.-Editorials:...

 and op-ed
Op-ed
An op-ed, abbreviated from opposite the editorial page , is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper's editorial board...

 pages, which are clearly distinguished in the publication and in the organization's internal structure. News reports are intended to be objective and unbiased. In contrast, advocacy journalists have an opinion about the story they are writing. For example, that political corruption should be punished, that more environmentally friendly practices should be adopted by consumers, or that a government policy will be harmful to business interests and should not be adopted. This may be evident in small ways, such as tone or facial expression, or large ways, such as the selection of facts and opinions presented.

Some advocacy journalists reject that the traditional ideal of objectivity is possible in practice, either generally, or due to the presence of corporate sponsors in advertising
Advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

. Some feel that the public interest
Public interest
The public interest refers to the "common well-being" or "general welfare." The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government itself...

 is better served by a diversity of media outlets with a variety of transparent points of view, or that advocacy journalism serves a similar role to muckraker
Muckraker
The term muckraker is closely associated with reform-oriented journalists who wrote largely for popular magazines, continued a tradition of investigative journalism reporting, and emerged in the United States after 1900 and continued to be influential until World War I, when through a combination...

s or whistleblower
Whistleblower
A whistleblower is a person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities occurring in a government department, a public or private organization, or a company...

s.

Examples


Advocacy journalism is practiced by a broad range of mainstream media outlets and alternative media
Alternative media
Alternative media are media which provide alternative information to the mainstream media in a given context, whether the mainstream media are commercial, publicly supported, or government-owned...

 and special interest publications and programs, but might also apply to a single article in an otherwise-neutral publication, such as political stories in Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone is a US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks. Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J...

; there are also "advocacy journals", or "alternative publications", which are marketed to target groups based on their interests or biases, for example:
  • Print media
    Publishing
    Publishing is the process of production and dissemination of literature or information—the activity of making information available to the general public...

    :

    • Xover Environment Magazine
      Xover
      Xover is an English-language environment magazine owned by "BCIL Alt. Tech. Foundation" and edited in Bangalore.In January 2004, India's Environment Magazine, Xover, was started for discerning readers. The magazine remains a serious passion for the editor and his small team as of February 2008...

    • The Nation
    • National Review
      National Review
      National Review is a biweekly magazine founded by the late author William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1955 and based in New York City. It describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion."Although the print version of the...

    • Mother Jones
      Mother Jones (magazine)
      Mother Jones is an American independent news organization, featuring investigative and breaking news reporting on politics, the environment, human rights, and culture. Mother Jones has been nominated for 23 National Magazine Awards and has won six times, including for General Excellence in 2001,...

    • The New Republic
      The New Republic
      The magazine has also published two articles concerning income inequality, largely criticizing conservative economists for their attempts to deny the existence or negative effect increasing income inequality is having on the United States...

    • The Economist
      The Economist
      The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

    • The Weekly Standard
      The Weekly Standard
      The Weekly Standard is an American neoconservative opinion magazine published 48 times per year. Its founding publisher, News Corporation, debuted the title September 18, 1995. Currently edited by founder William Kristol and Fred Barnes, the Standard has been described as a "redoubt of...

    • L'Humanité
      L'Humanité
      L'Humanité , formerly the daily newspaper linked to the French Communist Party , was founded in 1904 by Jean Jaurès, a leader of the French Section of the Workers' International...

    • Libération
      Libération
      Libération is a French daily newspaper founded in Paris by Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge July in 1973 in the wake of the protest movements of May 1968. Originally a leftist newspaper, it has undergone a number of shifts during the 1980s and 1990s...

    • Charlie Hebdo
      Charlie Hebdo
      Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical weekly newspaper, featuring cartoons, reports, polemics and jokes. It appeared from 1969 to 1981, when it folded, and was resurrected in 1992. The current editor is cartoonist Charb. His predecessors are François Cavanna and Philippe Val...

    • Le Canard Enchaîné
      Le Canard enchaîné
      Le Canard enchaîné is a satirical newspaper published weekly in France. Founded in 1915, it features investigative journalism and leaks from sources inside the French government, the French political world and the French business world, as well as many jokes and humorous cartoons.-Early...

    • Knoxville Voice
      Knoxville Voice
      Knoxville Voice was a populist alternative newspaper in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was published every two weeks and available free of charge in more than 300 locations throughout Knox and Blount counties. The paper debuted on April 20, 2006 and ceased publication on January 8, 2009. The summer 2007...

    • Ελευθεροτυπία
    • (Eleftherotypia).

Perspectives from advocacy journalists



One writer for the "alternative
Alternative media
Alternative media are media which provide alternative information to the mainstream media in a given context, whether the mainstream media are commercial, publicly supported, or government-owned...

" journalism collaborative, the Independent Media Center
Independent Media Center
The Independent Media Center is a global participatory network of journalists that report on political and social issues. It originated during the Seattle anti-WTO protests worldwide in 1999 and remains closely associated with the global justice movement, which criticizes neo-liberalism and its...

, writes the following in a call to action:
Classic tenets of journalism call for objectivity and neutrality. These are antiquated principles no longer universally observed.... We must absolutely not feel bound by them. If we are ever to create meaningful change, advocacy journalism will be the single most crucial element to enable the necessary organizing. It is therefore very important that we learn how to be successful advocacy journalists. For many, this will require a different way of identifying and pursuing goals.


In an April 2000 address to the Canadian Association of Journalists, Sue Careless gave the following commentary and advice to advocacy journalists, which seeks to establish a common view of what journalistic standards the genre should follow.
  • Acknowledge your perspective up front.
  • Be truthful, accurate, and credible. Don't spread propaganda, don't take quotes or facts out of context, "don't fabricate or falsify", and "don't judge or suppress vital facts or present half-truths"
  • Don't give your opponents equal time, but don't ignore them, either.
  • Explore arguments that challenge your perspective, and report embarrassing facts that support the opposition. Ask critical questions of people who agree with you.
  • Avoid slogans, ranting, and polemics. Instead, "articulate complex issues clearly and carefully."
  • Be fair and thorough.
  • Make use of neutral sources to establish facts.


Sue Careless also criticized the mainstream media
Mainstream media
Mainstream media are those media disseminated via the largest distribution channels, which therefore represent what the majority of media consumers are likely to encounter...

 for unbalanced and politically biased coverage, for economic conflicts of interest, and for neglecting certain public causes. She said that alternative publications have advantages in independence, focus, and access, which make them more effective public-interest advocates than the mainstream media.

History


The Crisis
The Crisis
The Crisis is the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People , and was founded in 1910 by W. E. B. Du Bois , Oswald Garrison Villard, J. Max Barber, Charles Edward Russell, Kelly Miller, W.S. Braithwaite, M. D. Maclean.The original title of the journal was...

, the official magazine of the NAACP, was founded in 1910. It describes itself as inheriting the tradition of advocacy journalism from Freedom's Journal, http://www.thecrisismagazine.com/his_dlewis.htm, which began in 1827 as "the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States."http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/libraryarchives/aanp/freedom/

Muckrakers are often claimed as the professional ancestors of modern advocacy journalists; for example: Nellie Bly
Nellie Bly
Nellie Bly was the pen name of American pioneer female journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochran. She remains notable for two feats: a record-breaking trip around the world in emulation of Jules Verne's character Phileas Fogg, and an exposé in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from...

, Ida M. Tarbell
Ida M. Tarbell
Ida Minerva Tarbell was an American teacher, author and journalist. She was known as one of the leading "muckrakers" of the progressive era, work known in modern times as "investigative journalism". She wrote many notable magazine series and biographies...

, Lincoln Steffens
Lincoln Steffens
-Biography:Steffens was born April 6, 1866, in San Francisco. He grew up in a wealthy family and attended a military academy. He studied in France and Germany after graduating from the University of California....

, Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair
Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...

, George Seldes
George Seldes
George Seldes was an American investigative journalist and media critic. The writer and critic Gilbert Seldes was his younger brother. Actress Marian Seldes is his niece....

, and I.F. Stone.

French newspapers Libération
Libération
Libération is a French daily newspaper founded in Paris by Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge July in 1973 in the wake of the protest movements of May 1968. Originally a leftist newspaper, it has undergone a number of shifts during the 1980s and 1990s...

, Charlie Hebdo
Charlie Hebdo
Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical weekly newspaper, featuring cartoons, reports, polemics and jokes. It appeared from 1969 to 1981, when it folded, and was resurrected in 1992. The current editor is cartoonist Charb. His predecessors are François Cavanna and Philippe Val...

, Le Canard Enchaîné
Le Canard enchaîné
Le Canard enchaîné is a satirical newspaper published weekly in France. Founded in 1915, it features investigative journalism and leaks from sources inside the French government, the French political world and the French business world, as well as many jokes and humorous cartoons.-Early...

and L'Humanité
L'Humanité
L'Humanité , formerly the daily newspaper linked to the French Communist Party , was founded in 1904 by Jean Jaurès, a leader of the French Section of the Workers' International...

all recuse what they consider pseudo-objective journalism for a purposeful explicited political stance on events. They oppose Le Monde
Le Monde
Le Monde is a French daily evening newspaper owned by La Vie-Le Monde Group and edited in Paris. It is one of two French newspapers of record, and has generally been well respected since its first edition under founder Hubert Beuve-Méry on 19 December 1944...

neutral style, which doesn't impede it, according to those critics, from dissimulating various events or from abstaining to speak about certain subjects. On the other side, a newspaper like Le Figaro
Le Figaro
Le Figaro is a French daily newspaper founded in 1826 and published in Paris. It is one of three French newspapers of record, with Le Monde and Libération, and is the oldest newspaper in France. It is also the second-largest national newspaper in France after Le Parisien and before Le Monde, but...

clearly assumes its conservative stance and pool of readers.

Objectivity


Advocacy journalists may reject the principle of objectivity in their work for several different reasons.

Many believe that there is no such thing as objective reporting, that there will always be some form of implicit bias, whether political, personal, or metaphysical, whether intentional or subconscious. This is not necessarily a rejection of the existence of an objective reality, merely a statement about our inability to report on it in a value-free fashion. This may sound like a radical idea, but many mainstream journalists accept the philosophical idea that pure "objectivity" is impossible, but still seek to minimize bias in their work. Other journalistic standards, such as balance, and neutrality, may be used to describe a more practical kind of "objectivity".

"Alternative" critics often charge that the mainstream's media claims of being "bias free" are harmful because they paper over inevitable (often subconscious) biases. They also argue that media sources claiming to be free of bias often advance certain political ideas which are disguised in a so-called "objective" viewpoint. These critics contend that the mainstream media reinforce majority-held ideas, marginalizing dissent and retarding political and cultural discourse.

The proposed solution is to make biases explicit, with the intention of promoting transparency and self-awareness that better serves media consumers. Advocacy journalists often assume that their audiences will share their biases (especially in politically charged alternative media), or will at least be conscious of them while evaluating what are supposed to be well-researched and persuasive arguments.

Some who believe that objective (or balanced, neutral, etc.) reporting is possible, or that it is a laudable goal, do not find that striving for objectivity is always an appropriate goal, perhaps depending on the publication and the purpose at hand. For example, it might be argued that when attempting to expose a waste, corruption, or abuse, a neutral position would "get in the way" of the exposition, and a "bias" against this kind of criminal activity would be quite acceptable to the intended audience.

Many advocacy journalists claim that they can reject objectivity while holding on to the goals of fairness and accuracy, and claim that corporate journalists often lack both.

Investigative reporting


In some instances, advocacy journalism is the same as investigative journalism
Investigative journalism
Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, often involving crime, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Investigative journalism...

 and muckraking
Muckraker
The term muckraker is closely associated with reform-oriented journalists who wrote largely for popular magazines, continued a tradition of investigative journalism reporting, and emerged in the United States after 1900 and continued to be influential until World War I, when through a combination...

, where these serve the public interest
Public interest
The public interest refers to the "common well-being" or "general welfare." The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government itself...

 and the public's right to know. Investigative reports often focus on criminal or unethical
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 activity, or aim to advance a generally accepted public interest, such as government accountability, alleviation of human suffering, etc. It might be argued that the journalist is assuming a point of view that public action is warranted to change the situation being described. The most famous example of this was Edward R. Murrow's 'See it Now' series of reports on Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Criticism of advocacy journalism


Professional journalists and members of the public critical of the term assert that reporting without objectivity (termed "editorializing" or "sensationalizing") is bad journalism, and does not serve the public interest.

The term might also indicate a serious breach of journalistic canons and standards
Journalism ethics and standards
Journalism ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics and of good practice as applicable to the specific challenges faced by journalists. Historically and currently, this subset of media ethics is widely known to journalists as their professional "code of ethics" or the "canons of journalism"...

, such as rumor mongering, yellow journalism
Yellow journalism
Yellow journalism or the yellow press is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism...

, sensationalism or other ethically flawed reportage — for example, the 2004 revelations created by a press leak in the Plame affair
Plame affair
The Plame Affair involved the identification of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert Central Intelligence Agency officer. Mrs. Wilson's relationship with the CIA was formerly classified information...

, where a leak was alleged to be used to help an office holder's political position. (However, a critic of that politician, publicly admitted to being the source of that leak, not the politician in question. )

Some fear the activity of "advocacy journalists" will be harmful to the reputation of the mainstream
Mainstream media
Mainstream media are those media disseminated via the largest distribution channels, which therefore represent what the majority of media consumers are likely to encounter...

 press as an objective, reliable source of information. Another concern is that undiscriminating readers will accept the facts and opinions advanced in advocacy pieces as if they were objective and representative, becoming unknowingly and perhaps dangerously misinformed as a result.

Advocacy journalists vary in their response to these criticisms. Some believe that mainstream and "alternative" outlets serve different purposes, and sometimes different audiences entirely, and that the difference is readily apparent to the public. Many believe that the mainstream press is not an objective and reliable source of information, and so doesn't deserve the reputation it seeks to maintain.

See also


  • Howell Raines
    Howell Raines
    Howell Hiram Raines was Executive Editor of The New York Times from 2001 until he left in 2003 in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal. He is the father of Jeff Raines, one of the founding members of the rock band Galactic...

  • Objectivity (philosophy)
    Objectivity (philosophy)
    Objectivity is a central philosophical concept which has been variously defined by sources. A proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are met and are "mind-independent"—that is, not met by the judgment of a conscious entity or subject.- Objectivism...

     main article discussing the concept of objectivity in various fields (history, science, journalism, philosophy, etc.)
  • Environmental journalism
    Environmental journalism
    Environmental journalism is the collection, verification, production, distribution and exhibition of information regarding current events, trends, issues and people that are associated with the non-human world with which humans necessarily interact...

  • Science journalism
    Science journalism
    Science journalism conveys reporting about science to the public. The field typically involves interactions between scientists, journalists and the public, and is still evolving.-Aim of science journalism:...

  • Journalism
    Journalism
    Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

  • Objectivity (journalism)
    Objectivity (journalism)
    Parent article: Journalism ethics and standardsObjectivity is a significant principle of journalistic professionalism. Journalistic objectivity can refer to fairness, disinterestedness, factuality, and nonpartisanship, but most often encompasses all of these qualities.- Definitions :In the context...

  • Journalism ethics and standards
    Journalism ethics and standards
    Journalism ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics and of good practice as applicable to the specific challenges faced by journalists. Historically and currently, this subset of media ethics is widely known to journalists as their professional "code of ethics" or the "canons of journalism"...


Groups


History


  • "Cornel West: The Uses of Advocacy Journalism". The Tavis Smiley Show, 15 December 2004. "Commentator Cornel West and NPR's Tavis Smiley discuss the notion of advocacy journalism in America, in the tradition of W.E.B. Dubois, I. F. Stone
    I. F. Stone
    Isidor Feinstein Stone was an iconoclastic American investigative journalist. He is best remembered for his self-published newsletter, I. F...

     and Ida B. Wells
    Ida B. Wells
    Ida Bell Wells-Barnett was an African American journalist, newspaper editor and, with her husband, newspaper owner Ferdinand L. Barnett, an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented lynching in the United States, showing how it was often a way to control or punish blacks who...

    ." http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4229607 RealAudio or Windows Media audio program.


Criticism of advocacy journalism

  • "Critical scan reveals that advocacy journalism is rampant" by Charles W. Moore. The New Brunswick Telegraph Journal 2004.06.29 http://www.cbcwatch.ca/?q=node/view/271. This article criticizes the mainstream Canadian press for engaging in "advocacy journalism" on behalf of liberal causes.

  • "The sorry state of American journalism" by Dennis Campbell. October 7, 2003. http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/campbell/031007 Criticizes "advocacy journalism" of all political stripes as "opinion disguised as news" and "propagandizing". Identifies "advocacy journalism" as a post-Watergate phenomenon.

External links