Since newspapers began as a journal (record of current events), the profession involved in the making of newspapers began to be called journalism.
In the yellow journalism era of the 19th century, many newspapers in the United States relied on sensational stories that were meant to anger or excite the public, rather than to inform. The restrained style of reporting that relies on fact checking and accuracy regained popularity around World War II.
Criticism of journalism is varied and sometimes vehement. Credibility is questioned because of anonymous sources; errors in facts, spelling, and grammar; real or perceived bias; and scandals involving plagiarism and fabrication.
In the past, newspapers have often been owned by so-called press barons, and were used for gaining a political voice. After 1920 most major newspapers became parts of chains run by large media corporations such as Gannett, The McClatchy Company, Hearst Corporation, Cox Enterprises, Landmark Media Enterprises LLC, Morris Communications, The Tribune Company, Hollinger International, News Corporation, Swift Communications, etc.
Newspapers have, in the modern world, played an important role in the exercise of freedom of expression. Whistle-blowers, and those who "leak" stories of corruption in political circles often choose to inform newspapers before other mediums of communication, relying on the perceived willingness of newspaper editors to expose the secrets and lies of those who would rather cover them. However, there have been many circumstances of the political autonomy of newspapers being curtailed. Recent research has examined the effects of a newspaper's closing on the reelection of incumbents, voter turnout, and campaign spending.
Opinions of other writers and readers are expressed in the op-ed ("opposite the editorial page") and letters to the editors sections of the paper.
Some ways newspapers have tried to improve their credibility are: appointing ombudsmen, developing ethics policies and training, using more stringent corrections policies, communicating their processes and rationale with readers, and asking sources to review articles after publication.
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