- Steen SteensenSteen SteensenDepartment of Journalism and Media Studies, Oslo Metropolitan University
Feature journalism has developed from being a marginal and subordinate supplement to (hard) news in newspapers to becoming a significant part of journalism on all platforms. It emerged as a key force driving the popularization and tabloidization of the press.
Feature journalism can be defined as a family of genres that share a common exigence, understood as a publicly recognized need to be entertained and connected with other people on a mainly emotional level by accounts of personal experiences that are related to contemporary events of perceived public interest. This exigence is articulated through three characteristics that have dominated feature journalism from the very beginning: It is intimate, in the sense that it portrays people and milieus in close detail and that it allows the journalist to be subjective and therefore intimate with his or her audience; it is literary in the sense that it is closely connected with the art of writing, narrativity, storytelling, and worlds of fiction; and it is adventurous, in the sense that it takes the audiences on journeys to meet people and places that are interesting.
Traditional and well-established genres of feature journalism include the human-interest story, feature reportage, and the profile, which all promote subjectivity and emotions as key ingredients in feature journalism in contrast to the norm of objectivity found in professional news journalism. Feature journalism therefore establishes a conflict of norms that has existed throughout the history of journalism.
Feature journalism has become an increasingly popular part of digital news outlets. Online newspapers have experimented with digital formats for feature journalism since the late 1990s, first with technology-driven multimedia feature journalism and later with story-driven long-form feature journalism. Since 2010, podcasts and online templates for long-form journalism have increased the popularity of digital feature journalism.