Advocacy journalism is a genre of journalism that intentionally and transparently adopts a non-objective viewpoint, usually for some social or political purpose. Because it is intended to be factual, it is distinguished from propaganda. It is also distinct from instances of media bias and failures of objectivity in media outlets, since the bias is intended.
Some advocacy journalists reject that the traditional ideal of objectivity is possible in practice, either generally, or due to the presence of corporate sponsors in advertising. Some feel that the public interest is better served by a diversity of media outlets with a variety of transparent points of view, or that advocacy journalism serves a similar role to muckrakers or whistleblowers.
Perspectives from advocacy journalists
- Classic tenets of journalism call for objectivity and neutrality. These are antiquated principles no longer universally observed.... We must absolutely not feel bound by them. If we are ever to create meaningful change, advocacy journalism will be the single most crucial element to enable the necessary organizing. It is therefore very important that we learn how to be successful advocacy journalists. For many, this will require a different way of identifying and pursuing goals.
In an April 2000 address to the Canadian Association of Journalists, Sue Careless gave the following commentary and advice to advocacy journalists, which seeks to establish a common view of what journalistic standards the genre should follow.
- Acknowledge your perspective up front.
- Be truthful, accurate, and credible. Don't spread propaganda, don't take quotes or facts out of context, "don't fabricate or falsify", and "don't judge or suppress vital facts or present half-truths"
- Don't give your opponents equal time, but don't ignore them, either.
- Explore arguments that challenge your perspective, and report embarrassing facts that support the opposition. Ask critical questions of people who agree with you.
- Avoid slogans, ranting, and polemics. Instead, "articulate complex issues clearly and carefully."
- Be fair and thorough.
- Make use of neutral sources to establish facts.
Sue Careless also criticized the mainstream media for unbalanced and politically biased coverage, for economic conflicts of interest, and for neglecting certain public causes. She said that alternative publications have advantages in independence, focus, and access, which make them more effective public-interest advocates than the mainstream media.
Nineteenth-century American newspapers were often partisan, publishing content that conveyed the opinions of journalists and editors alike. These papers were often used to promote political ideologies and were partisan to certain parties or groups.
The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP, was founded in 1910. It describes itself as inheriting the tradition of advocacy journalism from Freedom's Journal, , which began in 1827 as "the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States." The Suffragist newspaper, founded in 1913 by the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, promoted the agenda of the National Woman's Party and was considered the only female political newspaper at the time.
Advocacy journalists may reject the principle of objectivity in their work for several different reasons.
Studies have shown that despite efforts to remain completely impartial, journalism is unable to escape some degree of implicit bias, whether political, personal, or metaphysical, whether intentional or subconscious. This does not necessarily indicate an outright rejection of the existence of an objective reality, but rather recognition of the inability to report on it in a value-free fashion and the controversial nature of objectivity in journalism. Many journalists and scholars accept the philosophical idea of pure "objectivity" as being impossible to achieve, but still strive to minimize bias in their work. It is also argued that as objectivity is an impossible standard to satisfy, all types of journalism have some degree of advocacy, whether are intentional or not.
- Environmental journalism
- Howell Raines
- Journalism ethics and standards
- News propaganda
- Objectivity (journalism)
- Objectivity (philosophy) main article discussing the concept of objectivity in various fields (history, science, journalism, philosophy, etc.)
- Science journalism
- The Revolution in Journalism with an Emphasis on the 1960s and 1970s. Belinda Carberry. Brief history of alternative journalistic forms, including references for further reading. Designed for use by high school teachers. From the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute.
- "Cornel West: The Uses of Advocacy Journalism". The Tavis Smiley Show, 15 December 2004. "Commentator Cornel West and NPR's Tavis Smiley discuss the notion of advocacy journalism in America, in the tradition of W. E. B. Du Bois, I. F. Stone and Ida B. Wells." RealAudio or Windows Media Audio program.
- A Brief History of American Alternative Journalism in the Twentieth Century. Randolph T. Holhut.
Criticism of advocacy journalism
- "Critical scan reveals that advocacy journalism is rampant" by Charles W. Moore. The New Brunswick Telegraph Journal 2004.06.29 . This article criticizes the mainstream Canadian press for engaging in "advocacy journalism" on behalf of liberal causes.
- "The sorry state of American journalism" by Dennis Campbell. October 7, 2003. Criticizes "advocacy journalism" of all political stripes as "opinion disguised as news" and "propagandizing". Identifies "advocacy journalism" as a post-Watergate phenomenon.
- "Advocacy Journalism, The Least You Can Do, and The No Confidence Movement." Dave Berman, 29 June 2004. Independent Media Center.
- "Advocacy journalism" by Sue Careless. The Interim, May 2000. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-04-29. Retrieved 2005-04-13. Rules and advice for advocacy journalists.
- "The Fall and Rise of Partisan Journalism". Center for Journalism Ethics, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2017-04-20.
- "Suffragist Newspapers | National Woman's Party". nationalwomansparty.org. Retrieved 2017-04-20.
- Calcutt, Andrew; Hammond, Philip (2011-01-31). Journalism Studies: A Critical Introduction. Routledge. ISBN 9781136831478.
- Fisher, Caroline (2016-08-01). "The advocacy continuum: Towards a theory of advocacy in journalism". Journalism. 17 (6): 711–726. doi:10.1177/1464884915582311. ISSN 1464-8849.