Lesson 2 – Journalistic Standards (secondary)

What is journalism and why does it matter? Democracy requires journalism, which informs the public and holds those with power to account. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth, and its core is verification. When looking for credible information, you need to know what qualities make a report journalistic.



All documents for this lesson  (Word) (PDF) (Google Doc

Slide Deck 2  (PPT)

Backgrounder & Lesson Plan  (Word) (PDF)

Exemplar 2.1 (Word) (PDF)

Activity 2.2 Journalistic Standards Analysis (Word) (PDF)

Activity 2.3 The Elements of Journalism (Word) (PDF)


In previous generations, news came at specific intervals from print and broadcast media. Today, news and information comes through many channels reaching us at all times of day. On social media, the source of information is not always obvious, and it can be difficult to know what is credible.

To determine which information we can trust, we need to look to the practice of fact-based journalism. It always involves research, assessment and verification where the central goal is to produce an accurate and fair representation of the facts.

To determine if a report is journalistic and credible, you can assess it through some fundamental standards:

  • Sourcing: Does it include multiple reliable sources?
  • Accuracy: Have the facts been sourced and verified?
  • Research: Are there secondary sources? Have statistics been cited and if so, from where?
  • Context: Does the story go beyond the news event to include history or background?
  • Fairness: Is neutral language used to describe the people and issues?

These standards set fact-based journalism apart from other information that may not have the same level of research and rigour.

Journalism can be found in different places (online news sites, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio) and cover any topic, but when we are considering democracy and informed citizenship, we are interested in news.

Professional newsgathering organizations have their own standards for verification and accountability. In contrast to many online information sources, the reputations of these organizations depend on being always accurate and reliable. They are transparent and have a procedure for acknowledging and correcting mistakes when they are made. These measures help them earn the public’s trust.