Back to Basics: news and journalism

Inside the newsroom

The following jobs are associated with the production of a newspaper and can be used to help students understand their roles and responsibilities in compiling their School Newspaper. The co-ordinating teacher may wish to act as editor-in-chief and encourage students to adopt appropriate roles.

Editor:  Oversees and co-ordinates the production of the entire newspaper and has the final say on job allocation for reporters, newspaper layout and content. The editor ensures there is a balance between different types of stories in the newspaper.

Chief-of-staff: The chief-of-staff oversees the assembly of the paper, organises the journalists to cover particular stories and is responsible for seeing that reports are finished.

Editorial writer(s): The editorial writer writes statements of opinion about major news stories or topical issues.

Sub-editors: Sub-editors check every story for grammatical and spelling errors. They may need to edit (or cut) a story back to a shorter length. Sub-editors check factual content and indicate to journalists where corrections are to be made. When stories are correct, the sub-editors write a headline.

Layout sub-editors: Layout sub-editors oversee the layout of the newspaper. They place stories and photographs on each page.

Artistic journalists: The artists are responsible for any illustrations, cartoons, logos, tables or complex layouts that are required.

Photographic journalists: The photographers shoot the images that accompany stories written by the reporters, often liaising closely with the chief-of-staff to ensure they capture the correct “angle” in their photograph.

Journalist: Journalists, or reporters, write the stories that make the news. Reporters need to pay scrupulous attention to accuracy and balance.

What is news?

* Anything you didn't know yesterday

*Any change in the status quo

*The status quo itself: the prevailing situation, which the public may take for granted or ignore can be important news when it is analysed or made graphic in particular ways.

*Whatever is of interest to the reader. 

*Tomorrow's history today

*A timely, factual report of events, ideas and situations that is of interest to the public.

For most writers, news is what happens today. It may be issues; it could be unusual people or unusual events. High-profile people are often deemed newsworthy even when they do ordinary things. It would be accurate to say that its audience often determines news – if it is of public interest, it is news.


A journalist is:

1. a.   a person engaged in journalism; especially: a writer or editor for a news medium

     b.   a writer who aims at a mass audience

 Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionaryhttp://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary

 A journalist gathers the facts and communicates them to the public but he/she is more than a note-taker who simply quotes people verbatim. He/she has the responsibility of putting things into perspective and putting the reader into the picture; not just repeating the words that were uttered.

Ethics and Values

According to the Australian Journalists’ Association Code of Ethics, journalists must: 

1. Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts.  Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis.  Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply.

2. Do not place unnecessary emphasis on personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, family relationships, religious belief, or physical or intellectual disability.

3. Aim to attribute information to its source.  Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source’s motives and any alternative attributable source.  Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances.

4. Do not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence.

5. Disclose conflicts of interest that affect, or could be seen to affect, the accuracy, fairness or independence of your journalism.  Do not improperly use a journalistic position for personal gain.  

6. Do not allow advertising or other commercial considerations to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence.

7. Do your utmost to ensure disclosure of any direct or indirect payment made for interviews, pictures, information or stories.

8. Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material.  Identify yourself and your employer before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast.  Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice.

9. Present pictures and sound which are true and accurate.  Any manipulation likely to mislead should be disclosed.

10. Do not plagiarise.

11. Respect private grief and personal privacy.  Journalists have the right to resist compulsion to intrude. 

12. Do your utmost to achieve fair correction of errors.