The Journalistikon – what it is and how it works

An introduction to the Dictionary of Journalism Studies
By Horst Pöttker and Martin Gehr

The Media Harbor in Düsseldorf (Germany) has developed to a futuristic hotspot of media’s business since the last 20 years. All divisions of media’s work are represented in this area. In front of the picture the broadcasting studios of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR). Photo: Turmfalke/

Journalism has never been a particularly highly respected profession in Germany. In part this is down to a lack of understanding of its role, the methods it uses and the problems it faces – especially in an age in which social networks appear to produce more news than classic media, with bloggers and Youtubers with numerous followers attracting more attention than once-established publications and broadcasters. Journalism and the people that work in it are subject to ever-increasing pressure. The structure of the entire sector is subject to enormous upheaval. As a result, both media users and media producers are putting the background of this profession in the spotlight like never before.

No limits? How far can we go?
What legal constraints apply to journalism? Is undercover research a criminal offence, even if it uncovers scandals that are criminal themselves? What does copyright mean in the everyday work of an editor – both for his own productions and for external material used by journalists? Does Kurt Tucholsky’s famous line that → “satire has no rules” hold true? And where is the line, beyond media violate human dignity?

Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow? The flux of technology changes journalism always essentially. Photos: PublicDomainPictures/, FirmBee/, SeanPrior/

Paper makes way for touchscreens: Clever and smart or app-solute nonsense?
Technology also presents us with a conundrum. The media market is thriving thanks to an array of offerings so diverse that it is increasingly difficult to comprehend, both reaching a mass audience and catering to the specific interests of ever smaller target groups. User-generated web content (web 2.0) and the diversification of available technologies are just two of the causes. Technical developments are no longer merely an option, but a social consensus: mobile phones have become smartphones, newspapers are read on displays, radio programmes are downloaded and films → streamed. Where will it all end? And what does science have to say about it? Do scientists have the ambition to not only comment on, but also explain and keep track of this ever-more-complex world?

The sector. The professions. The biographies
The Journalistikon can help. Scientists from all over the German-speaking countries have formed a → collective to produce this Dictionary of Journalism Studies and supply a constant stream of new articles.

Communication without frontiers? Many users of media are overstrained by the flood of information. The Journalistikon wants to give an overview. Photo: kentoh/

For example, we will examine the question of whether → e-papers will replace classic print. Users can read what science and practice think → journalistic quality means and the criteria that can be used to evaluate journalistic products. An extensive directory of → journalistic jargon reveals what → footer articles and → eye-catchers are and that the weather forecast provides no protection against the next → silly season or shitstorm. For those interested in joining the sector despite all these challenges, the Journalistikon offers detailed information on options for → initial and advanced training and → professional roles, as well as → biographies of journalists who have shaped the sector, or even society, in outstanding ways and have left footprints that not even a web-based storm can wash away.

Which journey is your destination? The choice is yours!
We live in an age that demands diversity and encourages individuality. As a result, we have decided against a strictly uniform style for the dictionary entries. Although each entry has an orderly structure for the definition and layout, the individual articles are shaped by the writing style of their authors.

In addition, the Journalistikon offers various ways to access focus topics and individual articles. Users can choose between free or keyword → searches and → 21 overview articles that provide an introduction to topics such as → professional ethics, → journalistic cultures, → news factors and the → history of journalism, as well as links to more detailed articles. The reader can also explore the content via a classic → alphabetical structure or by → author.

This versatility also applies to the Dictionary’s technical use. The website is optimised both for classic computers and tablets and for smartphones, so that you can search for answers in compact form, wherever you are.

What standard do you call that?
The Dictionary of Journalism Studies is aimed not only at academics and students of relevant subjects, but at anyone who is interested in journalism studies and practical journalism and wants to take a more reflective approach to consuming or producing media. The Journalistikon is a useful resource for anyone looking for information on the topic without having to consult a second dictionary to understand the definitions.

If you should spot any noteworthy technical or content errors despite this promise, or would like to share your suggestions for how to develop the Journalistikon further, do not hesitate to contact us:

The Dictionary is being expanded all the time. So please, we know that the term ‘journalism’ comes from the French for ‘day’ (jour) and the Internet moves quickly, but give us time. Enough news and notices are just churned out without taking academic or journalistic quality criteria into account.

Translated from German by Sophie Costella