The SAGE Key Concepts series provide students with accessible and authoritative knowledge of the essential topics in a variety of disciplines. Cross-referenced throughout, the format encourages critical evaluation through understanding. Written by experienced and respected academics, the books are indispensable study aids and guides to comprehension. Key Concepts in Journalism offers a systematic and accessible introduction to the terms, processes, and effects of journalism;a combination of practical considerations with theoretical issues; and further reading suggestions. The authors bring an enormous range of experience in newspaper and broadcast journalism, at national and regional level, as well as their teaching expertise. This book will be essential reading for students in journalism, and an invaluable reference tool for their professional careers.


The term was first coined in 1926 by John Grierson, the man widely thought to be one of the founding fathers of documentary and who went on to make the classic Night Mail in 1936. He defined it as ‘the creative treatment of actuality’ (in Kilborn and Izod, 1997: 12).

But Winston's critique of the form (1995: 11) points out: ‘The supposition that any “actuality” is left after “creative treatment” can now be seen as being at best naïve and at worst a mark of duplicity’ Nevertheless, all forms of documentary in radio and television, within drama-documentary and docu-soaps have at their heart some form of relationship to the real world. Corner (1996) suggests that documentary is now seen as a form of extended journalism.

Some documentarists ...

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