Research on emotion and intimacy has been slow to develop in journalism studies. This is due to an allegiance to the model of liberal democracy and the associated ideal of objectivity. However, a growing body of work has shown that despite the historical allegiance to the ideal of objectivity, journalistic texts are—and always have been—profoundly infused with emotion. Emotion and intimacy serve crucial roles in the public discourse of journalism. They are used deliberately and strategically by journalists because they facilitate audience engagement and understanding. Audiences appear to connect with concrete stories of lived experience that dramatize the large and often abstract events that make up the news. Such connection can facilitate the cultivation of compassion—or feeling with others—and thereby engender cosmopolitan sensibilities. Growing scholarly attention to emotion and intimacy in journalism has occurred within the context of a rapidly changing media ecology. Technological changes associated with the digital era, including the rise of user-generated content and the emergence of social media, have ushered in a greater role for “ordinary people” in news production and participation. This has brought about the privileging of more emotional and embodied forms of storytelling. At the same time, these transformations, alongside broader existential threats to journalism, have rendered attention to the emotional impact of journalistic labor particularly urgent.
Mel Bunce, Martin Scott, and Kate Wright
Humanitarian journalism can be defined, very broadly, as the production of factual accounts about crises and issues that affect human welfare. This can be broken down into two broad approaches: “traditional” reporting about humanitarian crises and issues, and advocacy journalism that aims to improve humanitarian outcomes. In practice, there is overlap between the two approaches. Mainstream journalists have long helped to raise awareness and funds for humanitarian crises, as well as provide early emergency warnings and monitor the treatment of citizens. Meanwhile, aid agencies and humanitarian campaigners frequently subsidize or directly provide journalistic content. There is a large research literature on humanitarian journalism. The most common focus of this research is the content of international reporting about humanitarian crises. These studies show that a small number of “high-profile” crises take up the vast majority of news coverage, leaving others marginalized and hidden. The quantity of coverage is not strongly correlated to the severity of a crisis or the number of people affected but, rather, its geopolitical significance and cultural proximity to the audience. Humanitarian journalism also tends to highlight international rescue efforts, fails to provide context about the causes of a crisis, and operates to erase the agency of local response teams and victims. Communication theorists have argued that this reporting prevents an empathetic and equal encounter between the audience and those affected by distant suffering. However, there are few empirical studies of the mechanisms through which news content influences audiences or policymakers. There are also very few production studies of the news organizations and journalists who produce humanitarian journalism. The research that does exist focuses heavily on news organizations based in the Global North/West.