Advocacy journalism

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

One writer for the " alternative" journalism collaborative, the Independent Media Center, writes the following in a call to action:

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. [1]

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. [2]

  • 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.