PBS MediaShift | Free Press
Media lawyer and University of Dayton assistant professor Jonathan Peters and Edson C. Tandoc Jr., of the Missouri School of Journalism tried to answer the question "Who is a journalist?" through a new study. The two "culled a variety of sources that conceptualize a journalist, and they analyzed each one to identify its elements." In the study (which you can read here), the authors write they "do not offer a normative definition, but we do offer normative comments on the descriptive definition." Such a description is timely, they write, as the U.S. considers a reporter's shield law.
They consulted three "domains" -- academic, legal, industry -- for commonalities in definitions of journalism, among them federal laws about professions, state shield laws and the criteria of journalism organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists and the Regional Reporters Association. Most centered around activities, output and what they call the "social role" of journalists (e.g., being a watchdog). Here's the definition they came up with: