From Vietnam to terror on the streets of European cities - how journalism embraced emotion and the therapy culture
Authors: Jukes, S.
Start date: 5 April 2018
From the Tet Offensive in 1968 to today's ISIS-inspired terror on the streets of European cities, journalism has often struggled to tell emotionally charged stories. Journalists' professional ideology and normative values of objectivity sit uneasily with the need to engage the consumers of news and 'sell' a story to the public. Codes of objectivity, based around concepts of detachment and impartiality, still hold talismanic status with many journalists and news organisations. Yet today's media is infused with raw emotion and the old adage 'if it bleeds, it leads' also holds true. This paper charts journalism's struggle with this conundrum over the past 50 years and explores how different generations of journalists have tackled it in the light of prevailing trends in society and the ever-changing media landscape. Based on in-depth interviews with journalists across the decades, it explores the journalistic techniques they have used to inject emotion into stories and examples of how the objectivity paradigm can break down at times of national or international crisis. It examines the rise of traumatic user-generated images that has allowed the public to witness in almost real-time the human suffering caused by chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian civil war, ISIS beheadings of Western hostages and parents grieving for children killed in the 2017 Manchester suicide bombing. The paper argues that today's news journalism has embraced the therapy culture and become more emotionally charged than ever before.