Are you inquisitive, curious or downright nosy? Do you ask a lot of questions and questions on top of those? We asked several journalists about the essential traits of a journalist. Do you want to know what they said? Glad you asked.

Some people are naturally curious, others cultivate the quality. Journalism gives practitioners license to ask questions. The First Amendment – 45 important words – protects the right to seek answers from officials, public records, court and other government proceedings and then share them. One question often leads to a follow-up question and then another until the details of a story or a series of stories come into focus guided by critical thinking and care.

Responsible journalists don’t take the public’s trust for granted. Most operate by a professional code of ethics; they check facts to verify they are true before publishing or broadcasting. They try to interview the best possible sources including eye witnesses to events, experts and the citizens affected by policy decisions. When mistakes are made, they should be corrected quickly and prominently.

To learn more about the importance of curiosity, access to information and ensuring accuracy, consider these resources:

SPJ’s Code of Ethics
The Journalist’s Toolbox
Journalism Education Association Scholastic Press Rights Committee
American Press Institute
The Empathetic Newsroom
Student Press Law Center Public Records Letter Generator
News Literacy Project

Thank you to the journalists featured in this video: Marty Baron, executive editor, The Washington Post; Maria Carrillo, assistant managing editor for enterprise, The Tampa Bay Times; Carla Correa; senior staff editor, The New York Times; Adam Harris, staff writer, The Atlantic; Arelis Hernández, reporter, The Washington Post; Mary Hudetz, reporter, The Associated Press; Cassandra Jaramillo, reporter, The Dallas Morning News; Richard Lui, anchor, MSNBC; Steven Rich, database editor for investigations, The Washington Post; Topher Sanders, investigative reporter, ProPublica; Mark Trahant, editor, Indian Country Today; and Francisco Vara-Orta, formerly of Chalkbeat, now training director at Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Video produced by Jon Busdeker, Sunny Oranges.