Underlying epistemological conceptions in journalism

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Most of the main epistemological principles and notions which govern the professional practice of journalism are not explicitly stated but implicitly presupposed. Stylebooks are a paradigmatic case of how these ideas are subtly, but firmly, embedded in the newsmaking process. Although these works appear to be “merely” grammar and stylistic handbooks, they actually are much more than that: they bear on issues related to professional judgement, that is to say, on underlying criteria which are the basis of journalistic work. Among these criteria, those related to knowledge and truth are key to understanding the view of journalism fostered by the media and practised by them. The purpose of this research is to offer a contribution to the study of the epistemological principles and notions upon which media work, inasmuch as they are held—generally in an implicit manner—in the stylebooks of the three Spanish leading newspapers nowadays: El País, El Mundo and ABC. More specifically, this study argues (1) that, in spite of minor differences among them, all three stylebooks agree on the major premises of the objectivist tradition of journalism, which remain firmly entrenched in norms for newswriting, and (2) that their shortcomings and inconsistencies show the urgent need to rethink some of the core concepts related to truth and knowledge involved in the professional practice of journalism.
This is an electronic version of an article published in Journalism Studies, 2007, volume 8, issue 2. JOURNALISM STUDIES is available online at: