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Journalism and Journalistic Writing: Introduction

Journalism is the practice of gathering, recording, verifying, and reporting on information of public importance. Though these general duties have been historically consistent, the particulars of the journalistic process have evolved as the ways information is collected, disseminated, and consumed have changed. Things like the invention of the printing press in the 15thcentury, the ratification of the First Amendment in 1791, the completion of the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1858,  the first televised presidential debates in 1960, and more have broadened the ways that journalists write (as well as the ways that their readers read). Today, journalists may perform a number of different roles. They still write traditional text-based pieces, but they may also film documentaries, record podcasts, create photo essays, help run 24-hour TV broadcasts, and keep the news at our fingertips via social media and the internet. Collectively, these various journalistic media help members of the public learn what is happening in the world so they may make informed decisions.

The most important difference between journalism and other forms of non-fiction writing is the idea of objectivity. Journalists are expected to keep an objective mindset at all times as they interview sources, research events, and write and report their stories. Their stories should not aim to persuade their readers but instead to inform. That is not to say you will never find an opinion in a newspaper—rather, journalists must be incredibly mindful of keeping subjectivity to pieces like editorials, columns, and other opinion-based content.

Similarly, journalists devote most of their efforts to working with primary sources, whereas a research paper or another non-fiction piece of writing might frequently consult an encyclopedia, a scholarly article, or another secondary or tertiary source. When a journalist is researching and writing their story, they will often interview a number of individuals—from politicians to the average citizen—to gain insight into what people have experienced, and the quotes journalists collect drive and shape their stories. 

The pages in this section aim to provide a brief overview of journalistic practices and standards, such as the ethics of collecting and reporting on information; writing conventions like the inverted pyramid and using Associated Press (AP) Style; and formatting and drafting journalistic content like press releases.