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What is the Difference Between Communications and Journalism?

By Deneatra Harmon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Communications and journalism both revolve around the process of disseminating information to various sources ranging from an individual to a viewing audience to a large organization. The field of communications covers a broad range of disciplines and often is targeted toward a narrow audience. Journalism presents a more narrow approach to the types of information included, usually focusing on news and current happenings, but it often is targeted toward a more broad audience.

Communications, in general, focus on human and social interactions and skills that include speaking, listening, writing, analyzing and interpreting, all of which are among the basic skills needed to produce and distribute information from person to person or from one group to another. Communications not only cover how people or groups convey information in radio, television, movies and on the Internet, they also focus on verbal and nonverbal messages across cultural and social situations.

Some examples of verbal communications include face-to-face interactions, conversations with friends and speech presentations to coworkers. Tone of voice and language also are among the key components in verbal communications to ensure meaning and clarity of the words that are expressed. The most common forms of nonverbal communications are body language, gestures and eye contact, which might indicate interest in the message, the emotions in which it is being communicated and level of confidence.

From an academic standpoint, communications studies also look at rhetoric, which involves arguing or reasoning, and persuasion, which targets the emotions of a person or an audience to convince them to buy a new product or buy into a specific message. Most colleges and universities offer training in communications and journalism as a whole or as separate majors. Typical communications concentrations include courses in speech, interpersonal communications, media studies and mass communications. Other programs prepare students for careers in business, government, technical, advertising, marketing and public relations. Career titles in communications include writers, editors, public relations managers and communications specialists, to name a few.

Like communications, journalism requires verbal, written and visual techniques in order to spread information to an audience. Communications trend toward scholarly journals and corporate publications such as press releases, newsletters, corporate executive summaries and training manuals. Journalism veers toward spreading the news and keeping an audience informed mostly through newspapers, magazines and broadcast and online sources.

Among the roles of a journalist are researching, interviewing, writing, reporting, photographing, editing and publishing. Journalists work in a newsroom setting as opposed to a corporate office. They usually are required to go out to the scene, where they can interview witnesses for a breaking news story or random people for a human interest story.

In journalism, the intent of a news article is to deliver the who, what, when, where, how and sometimes why in an informational context. Communications in academic and corporate settings generally present information about a company, policy or a brand. Journalism focuses on disseminating information relating to current news and public affairs, entertainment, sports, business, lifestyle and technological trends and more. In addition to the title of journalist, some other career titles include writer, editor, reporter, assignment editor, copy editor, senior writer or editor, managing editor and editor-in-chief.

Communications and journalism tend to overlap because they require the skills of writing, editing, speaking, producing and presenting information to a general or specific audience, whether it is the written word or through broadcast media. Most employers in communications and journalism look for candidates with at least a bachelor's degree, along with some internship and work-related experience.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon1004940 — On May 18, 2021

Communication is how individuals live and organizations sustain through exchanging or transacting information, emotions without being licensed.

By anon322500 — On Feb 27, 2013

What's the difference between Journalism-Telecommunications, and Journalism-News/Editorial?

By anon289582 — On Sep 04, 2012

To what extent do journalists have the power to change lives or situations?

By anon167564 — On Apr 13, 2011

Mass communication has the power to change human thinking and journalism has the power to change the society.

By johnson19 — On Aug 03, 2010

ChessPlayer- I agree that a journalism degree is good preparation for a career in either writing or communications. However, I have found that some universities actually combine the communications and journalism degree into one program. For example, I have a degree in mass communication with an emphasis in journalism. I feel this degree was a good choice for me because it gave me specialized skills in writing and editing but it also had a communications focus as well.

By ChessPlayer — On Aug 03, 2010

If you want to work in either the communications or journalism industry, I would recommend getting a degree in journalism. A journalism degree will provide you with the skills you need to purse a job in journalism or communications. I have a degree in journalism and feel that I have the flexibility to work in writing, editing, public relations or communications. A journalism degree provides a solid writing, editing and communications background. Many communications degrees are quite broad and do not focus specifically on writing and editing skills.

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