The Affective Dimension of Journalism in the Coverage of Protest and Social Movements

Authors: Jukes, S.

Start date: 31 May 2018

Much has been written about the affective impact of news journalism on audiences, a phenomenon heightened by the power of today’s social media to distribute messages instantaneously and by raw, unedited images of protest, conflict and terror delivered to screens in the form of user-generated content. But what about the affective practice of journalists themselves as they go about their everyday business of covering such emotionally charged stories? This paper examines the affective interaction between journalists and the protestors and social movements they are reporting on and the affective space that is the scene of protest. The paper draws on in-depth interviews with senior journalists, who have covered major protests ranging from the Arab Spring in Egypt to the Occupy Movement in Western cities such as London and New York. It argues that journalists gathering en masse as a ‘pack’ to cover such stories form a community of affective practice and explores areas of shared performance, ritual and affective contagion between journalists and protestors. How do emotions and affect circulate between actors in this mediatised space and what is the nature of the affective news streams that emerge from the interaction of journalists and protestors? What is the role played by social media in an era in which protestors are not just social actors but are also producing their own media? And to what extent is this affective dimension of journalism practice at odds with normative values of objectivity and detachment?

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