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"I believe in the profession of journalism."

Does the Journalist's Creed need to be updated for the 21st Century? - February 17, 2009

RJI - Mike Fancher.JPG
 Mike Fancher, Donald W. Reynolds Fellow

(PRNewsChannel) / Columbia, Mo. / Mike Fancher, a 2008-2009 Fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the  Missouri School of Journalism, asks, "What is the Journalist's Creed for the 21st Century?"

Fancher will make a presentation on this subject at the convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Chicago.  He will also convene a series of Creed Conversations with news industry leaders, journalism students, citizen groups and journalism scholars at locations around the country between now and May. In March he'll report on a national survey that will measure attitudes about public ethics.

For 20 years Fancher served as executive editor of The Seattle Times. During his tenure the newspaper won four Pulitzer Prizes and was a Pulitzer finalist 13 other times.

Fancher points to two factors that contributed to this success: he worked for a newspaper that subscribed to the concept of public service journalism. And as a sophomore in high school, writing for the student paper, he found inspiration in the Journalist's Creed, written by Walter Williams in 1914.

Worried that important journalistic principles are at risk because the journalism business model is changing, and technology has altered the relationship between journalists and citizens, Fancher is spending the current academic year on Walter Williams's own turf, exploring these issues.

Williams founded the world's first journalism school at the University of Missouri.  It is now the home of the Reynolds Journalism Institute, dedicated to preserving public service journalism in the 21st Century.

"It's ironic," says Fancher, "that Williams authored the Creed -- and launched the J-School concept -- to give dignity to the profession at a time when journalists were not held in high regard. He anticipated the difficulties that journalism must meet and sought to prepare its graduates to overcome them. Now the question is: should the Journalist's Creed be modified for the 21st Century?"

Fancher has scheduled discussion forums in Washington D.C., St. Louis, Mo., Columbia, Mo., and Portland, Ore. His underlying question: in the 21st century can public-service journalism remain viable, relevant and accountable?

Audio clips, summaries and transcripts of recent forums are available at  The discussions probe issues such as a reporter's selection of sources, the "over-abundance" of new media techniques, and objectivity at a time when, as one student put it, "citizens give journalists a lot of heat for being biased when they themselves are drawn more to stories that reinforce their preexisting viewpoints."


RJI programs are aimed at improving journalism in the service of democracy. Some initiatives focus on immediate challenges and opportunities, testing new technologies or business strategies for the gathering, formatting or delivery of news and advertising. Others are more long-range and conceptual, aimed at preserving traditional journalism values like accuracy and fairness in a chaotic technology and business environment.

In its first four years RJI has launched more than 60 journalism projects, most of them in collaboration with the nation's leading private media companies and professional journalism and advertising organizations.

RJI is currently accepting proposals for the 2009-2010 class of Fellows.

About The Reynolds Journalism Institute: RJI was founded with an initial grant of $31 million from The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, The Reynolds Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States.

For more information about RJI, please visit:

Kelly Peery, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

Phone: (573) 884-9121
Web: http://

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