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Tools of the Craft

  • Fact Checking
  • Getting Started - Keeping Current
  • Don't Limit Your Audience
  • How to Interview
  • Protecting Your Sources
  • What is Investigative Journalism?
  • The Muckraking Tradition
  • Using Style Sheets for Publication
  • Power Structure Research
  • Basics of Responsible Journalism


    The Basics of Journalism
    as a Craft

    For: citizen journalists, alternative journalists,
    progressive journalists, & movement journalists

    Why Bother with the Learning Curve?

    There is no such thing as objective journalism.
    But in a democracy
    journalists play a special role
    by providing fair and accurate reporting
    to assist the development of informed consent

    Serious journalism provides the basis for the informed consent needed for democracy to function properly The rise of more democratic and unfiltered horizontal media, especially the Internet, has created a much larger group of people who consider themselves “citizen journalists” or “movement journalists.” This has resulted in participants holding discussions about what it means to be a journalist—especially one where traditional training and editing is seldom a reality. A panel at Left Forum 2012 in New York City explored the ethical dilemmas faced by “movement journalists” embedded in the Occupy Wall Street movement in several cities.

    The full credits page explains more about how this resource was constructed by a group of progressive alternative journalists.

    -Chip Berlet

    Ethics for Journalists

    • Don't lie.
    • Don't fabricate information.
    • Don't "cook" quotes by modifying them without the explicit premission of the person being quoted.
    • Don't plagiarize from other writers, give proper credit.
    • Ethical journalists and writers strive for fairness and accuracy, even when they think the idea of actual neutral "objectivity" is ridiculous."
    • When possible, “double source”: i.e. confirm what someone tells you through another source.
    • Never assume that the collection of facts and assumptions, and the point of view that you have arrived at, is the “truth.”
    • Never assume that you know everything there is to know about a story. Don’t hesitate to quote from sources that conflict with your viewpoint if they offer a valid point of view or provide context.
    • Don’t make fun of people in a personally malicious or vicious way, it makes you look cheap and the person being attacked look like the underdog. It’s also just wrong. Satire and humor are fine--character assassination is foul.
    • If you make a mistake, apologize profusely and put up a correction as soon as possible.

    Tools of the Craft

    Basics of Responsible Journalism

    This Series

    These pages are adapted from a course, "Strategic Research, Analysis and Reporting," developed by Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, and Abby Scher for the
    Z Media Institute hosted by Z Magazine in Woods Hole Massachusetts. Please do not copy or distribute material from these pages.
    Links are welcome.
    All material unless attributed to a specific author is
    © 1968-2015 by Research for Progress

    All Z Media Institute material © 1997-2015 by
    Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, & Abby Scher

    Curated List of 250+ Selected Websites
    Search Reliable Information Sources
    News Updates from Allies
    Browse Combined Feeds
    Browse by Organization

    Videos Online

    When Democracy Works
    Narrated by Scot Nakagawa

    Vincent Harding
    Students as Leaders

    Herman Sinaiko
    Democracy and the Obligations of Leaders and Citizens--From China in the age of the Mandarins to the Tea Parties Today

    Civic Education

    Elements of Democracy: The Overall Concept

    Basic Concepts, from Magruder's, Chapter One

    Essential Elements: The International Consensus

    Democracy Activism

    Frances Moore Lappé, Doing Democracy: 10 Practical Arts Handbook, Small Planet Institute.

    Bill Moyer, JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley & Steve Soifer, Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, New Society Publishers.

    Higher Education

    The Democracy Imperitive
    A project mobilizing higher education to support democracy

    Democracy Now!: A daily independent global news hour with Amy Goodman & Juan González

    Global Human Rights

    Allied Sites

    How does
    Social Science
    Analyze the Success
    and Failure of
    Social Movements?

    Visit the Social Movement
    Study Network Activism Pages

    And learn how to
    fine-tune your organizing


    Democracy is not a specific set of institutions but a process that requires dissent.
    - - -
    Democracy is a process that assumes the majority of people, 
    over time, given enough accurate information,
    the ability to participate in a free and open public debate,
    and to vote without intimidation,
    reach constructive decisions that benefit the whole of society, and 
    preserve liberty, protect our freedoms, extend equality,
    and thus defend democracy itself. 


    Unless otherwise noted, all material on this website is copyright ©2011-2015 by Building Human Rights WebNet

    Site curated by Chip Berlet