Reporting news

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News reporting is the process of obtaining information for the purpose of publishing a journalistic work. It encompasses a wide variety of things, including live shots from the scene of a breaking news story, such as an accident. It also includes investigative reporting on a story that may take years to complete. In all cases, however, news reporting is supposed to be distinct from commentary or entertainment. Reporters are on the scene of an event to provide an accurate account of what is actually happening rather than to simply voice their opinions. They report by seeking information from individuals, documents, or other sources and reporting it back to their readers, listeners, or viewers.

There is always a debate among journalists as to where the line may be drawn between good reporting and bad, journalism and commentary, as well as news and entertainment. Various professional organizations offer editorial guidelines, news organizations generally have their own policies and procedures, and journalism schools teach about ethics and news gathering.

In spite of all of this, the challenge of reporting news changes with the times. In the 1950s, respected reporters like Edward R. Murrow could not report on the activities of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy or the anti-communist fervor of the moment without approval from CBS, which was a corporation with numerous shows on television and radio sponsored by powerful companies.

That tension between bottom-lines and journalism has persisted ever since. When news magazine shows became popular, journalists constantly struggled with a fundamental problem: their salaries were ultimately determined by how well they ranked on television ratings. Their solution was to interview celebrities and cater to popular tastes while also developing serious stories on dangers to the public.

Some hope the Internet offers a way to help journalists steer an independent course that is not shaped by corporations or government. So far, however, that hope has remained unrealized.