What is Broadcast Journalism? - Definition & History

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we discover exactly what is broadcast journalism. An ever-evolving field, we also briefly cover broadcast journalism's history before delving into its functions today.


It can be difficult trying to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. It's such a big decision, and choosing something you hate can mean going back to school, working a job other than what you've been trained for, or simply working a job you hate. None of those are ideal.

So, choose carefully. This lesson will give you a glimpse into the world of broadcast journalism. If you like the news, television, radio, or the internet, a career in broadcast journalism might be right for you.

What Is It?

Broadcast journalists, like all journalists, try to deliver news to the public. But broadcast journalism specifically refers to a way of delivering the news to the people other than via the newspaper or other print sources. Generally, this category includes anyone associated with a radio or television (and increasingly the internet) news broadcast. This includes: news anchors, producers, reporters, correspondents, directors, writers, audio technicians, and many more. If their work goes into a news program broadcast over the television, the radio, or even over the internet, then they are working in broadcast journalism.

To work in broadcast journalism, one usually needs at least a bachelor's degree. Broadcast journalist students learn the basics of what it means to report the news over their specific medium, and the differences between their work and those of print journalists.

Though all journalists want to deliver the news as coherently as possible, the written space afforded most print journalists allows them to give background and flesh out important facts of a story in greater detail. Broadcast journalists, often handcuffed to strict 30-second or one-minute segments, don't have that luxury. Broadcast journalists must be to the point, delivering facts in plain, easily digestible language.


Broadcast journalism has changed considerably in the past century. Though the radio was born roughly around the turn of the 20th century, the medium was not generally considered a mouthpiece through which to transmit news. Radio hosts might chat briefly about a few news items in between songs (as many still do today), or a short segment might be dedicated to reading the headlines from the newspaper, but there were no dedicated news pieces and certainly no broadcast journalists.

That changed completely via the work of one man: Edward R. Murrow. In 1937, Murrow was sent by CBS to London to begin reporting the news from Europe. With a talented group of reporters around him, Murrow reported on the rise of Nazi Germany and World War II to a spellbound American public in his weekly show, World News Roundup.

Edward R. Murrow
Edward R. Murrow

Television soon followed suit as a source of news. Weekly news programs like NBC's esteemed Meet the Press began shortly after the war. Murrow even eventually had his own television program, See It Now, which debuted in 1951 and quickly gained critical acclaim.

Since WWII, most Americans have received news of the most important events of the 20th century via either the radio or television. From the assassination of President Kennedy, to the Moon landing, to 9/11, all were captured, and transmitted to the public, by broadcast journalists.

...And Now

The advent of the internet has irrevocably changed the face of broadcast journalism. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have democratized information and made it difficult to tell rumor from actual information. With real-time information available across internet platforms, pressure has built on broadcast journalists to not only get the news right, but get it right virtually instantaneously.

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