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Journalism Information Literacy Framework

Information Has Value

Journalists understand that information has value as a commodity and as a means to educate citizens, influence public opinion, and foster an informed society. The value of information can be driven by powerful interests that marginalize certain groups or perspectives in society. In journalism, ethical, legal, and socioeconomic interests affect the selection, production, and dissemination of information.

Journalists are producers and critical consumers of information. To make deliberate and informed decisions on reporting, journalists should know their rights and responsibilities concerning the value of information in the various contexts of journalism. In selecting information, journalists must gather information from trustworthy sources in a wide variety of forms. Both novice and expert journalists advocate for the free flow of knowledge in the public domain, but expert journalists are keenly aware of when to use closed sources such as subscriptions to access premium content. Reporting verified information is invaluable to building trust in a story and the journalists telling that story. Journalists exercise healthy skepticism to back up every claim in a news story and verify, attribute, and cite all sources transparently and adequately. They seek to avoid disclosing sensitive or confidential information such as trade secrets, comments shared “off-the-record,” or other information that might put a human source at risk. In reporting a story, journalists should recognize when individuals and organizations with power attempt to use information to influence change and for other forms of civic, economic, social, or personal gains. When reporting about marginalized groups or views in society, journalists strive to recognize their own and their source's potential bias and to be accurate and fair in conveying a diversity of perspectives to their audiences. (See the recommendations from the 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Audit of The Philadelphia Inquirer for examples of approaches to inclusive sourcing, editing, hiring, and engagement.) Journalists should be vigilant in identifying the purpose of the sources they consult, and be honest and transparent in the disclosure of any conflicts of interest. Journalists often write the same story for multiple formats (e.g., in a newspaper, on-air, and online), and supplement the story with graphics, data, audio, or video, which requires current knowledge of laws and doctrines for the copyright and fair use applicable to each format. They should understand the benefits and costs of publishing or broadcasting in these myriad formats.

Knowledge Practices

Journalists who are developing their information literate abilities

  • maintain transparency in obtaining and reporting about the original ideas and work of others;
  • do not plagiarize or fabricate information;
  • understand intellectual property laws and appropriately attribute and cite all sources such as images, videos, graphics, datasets, and text;
  • invest in the necessary information and communications technologies to carry out their work;
  • apply adequate time, staff and funds toward investigative reporting whose goals may not be limited to minimizing cost;
  • exercise good judgment in situations when paid access to the source material is required;
  • reduce harm when reporting about some individuals or groups of individuals who are underrepresented or systematically marginalized within society; 
  • know when to protect a source’s safety and right to privacy, and when to serve the public’s right to know;
  • learn the history of ownership and readership for publications and other media platforms in their industry; 
  • adhere to ethical codes from professional organizations and, when in doubt, seek help from their organizations and communities of other journalists.


Journalists who are developing their information literate abilities

  • respect the original ideas, data, and stories of others;
  • value the expertise and time needed to produce high-quality news reports;
  • see themselves as both contributors to and consumers in an information marketplace;
  • understand that quality journalism may require the use of information behind paywalls or subscriptions, and the privilege inherent to this type of information access; 
  • strive to be fair and accurate in covering diverse voices and varying perspectives;
  • recognize the intersection between the work of journalism and structural racism and sexism, and how this influences the value placed on certain types of information or sources;
  • examine their privilege connected to freedom of the press and speech in monitoring and challenging economic and political power, including how that role for journalists differs around the globe.