I found the word ‘Shoe-leather journalism’ in the following lead copy of the New York Times article (July 28) titled ‘In baring facts of train crash, bogs erode China censorship.’

“China’s Twitter-like microblogs posted an astounding 26 million messages on the crash, a potent amalgam of contempt, suspicion and shoe-leather journalism.”

Merriam-Webster com.dictionary gives the definition of ‘shoe-leather’ as ‘involving or using basic, direct, or old-fashioned methods', and shows shoe–leather journalism as an example without any explanation.

Does ‘Shoe-leather journalism’ mean old-fashioned journalism or stereotype reporting style? Does it have something to do with a country’s governing system? What is the origin of ‘Shoe-leather journalism’?

2 Answers 2


The phrase is "shoe leather reporting".

I believe the meaning here is that genuine reporters will be out on the street walking, investigating, talking first-hand i.e. wearing out the leather of their shoes for a good quote or story. This is as opposed to new media where people pick up online research or data and pass it off as journalism.

My assumption turned out right, I've updated to include a reference

Part of the problem is that journalism terminology glorifies "shoe-leather reporting," whereby you pound the pavement so often you wear out the soles of your shoes.


It more likely means basic or direct here, as the microbloggers described are not likely to be genuine news reporters of the old school, but simple de facto reporters who simply told what they saw. The "shoe leather" part refers to putting feet on pavement and going to get the story first-hand.

  • @Robust-san. So ‘shoe-leather journalism’ has positive nuance as a report based on first-hand information, not stereotype report under the government control as I first imagined being mislead by the word, ‘old fashioned methods’ in the definition of Merriam-Webster com? Jul 29, 2011 at 11:56
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    @Yoichi Oishi: Oishi-san, it definitely has positive connotations in most cases. It could be used negatively, for example if someone were to extol the virtues of modern electronic information gathering over older methods — in which case it could be contrasted as slow and plodding — but it overwhelmingly is used in a positive way to convey doing something methodically, patiently, and (above all) in person.
    – Robusto
    Jul 29, 2011 at 12:36

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