Compassion, emotion and objectivity in global reporting
Authors: Jukes, S.
Editors: Ward, S.J.A.
Today’s mainstream news agenda is likely to serve up a diet of conflict, disaster and personal tragedy. It seems as though the old adage ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ has never been truer. We live in a world of populism, fake news and polarized opinion, a news landscape in which feelings and emotion often dominate stories at the expense of fact.
Where does this leave journalism’s objectivity paradigm, one of the profession’s key norms that has held sway for some 150 years in the Anglo-American news culture (and beyond) since it evolved in the 19th Century? What does the injection of such levels of raw emotion into the news file mean for the public sphere and rational debate? And how can journalists report ethically, with compassion and responsibly, in this febrile atmosphere?
The chapter argues that the rise of emotion has not fundamentally changed the underlying ethical dilemmas facing journalists but that they need to be better prepared to face the unprecedented volume of difficult user-generated material they are confronted with and the intense levels of public participation, emotion and scrutiny. The chapter also argues that journalists need to be ‘emotionally literate’ and responsible in this affective media environment.