More journalists appeal to emotion, harm industry

“She shook her head. No go. She knows too well how much the media loves to pit one celebrity against another. To believe the tabloids, she has spent the last decade in a grudge match with Angelina Jolie, whose husband, Brad Pitt, was of course married to Ms. Aniston first.”

This is one of the comments that Frank Bruni, a New York Times journalist, wrote about Jennifer Aniston’s statement at the Toronto International Film Festival. His imagination of how Jennifer was reasoning her reactions and responses is one of the many examples that indicate the unfortunate current media trend of “feelings journalism.”

While outrage has compromised the integrity of journalism and saddened enough critiques from academia, “feelings journalism” has been recently termed as yet another integrity issue.

Feelings journalism can be considered a milder cause of outrage, since it does not necessarily ridicule its subjects, but it still presents interpretations of the subjects’ thoughts and feelings without evidence to back up the claims. This trend is harmful to the news industry since it potentially provides readers with misleading information about what the subjects actually mean and feel.

Economic pressure has pushed journalism into a race to the bottom. Reporters have become much more oblivious to how trustworthy their news is and how their deliveries will affect their readers. Instead, too much focus is given to catchphrases and the shock value of their articles.

Strategically, when the public disagrees with a story, it arouses widespread anger, and therefore, a larger viewership. Even when a story is completely misleading, and reporters have to make public apologies, the profit that the controversy brings to the news firm outweighs the temporary embarrassment of the report and blinds them from the long-term negative effects of the disintegrity.

The current situation of journalism goes against several expectations that the population has for the profession. Reporters tend to write for shock value at the expense of intensive research for their contents. For example, articles that touch upon people’s feelings and thoughts should be acquired through interviews and not simply the interpretation by the reporters.

The damage caused by outrage and feelings journalism is manifold. The fact that reporters put words in their subjects’ mouths based on their assumptions has the potential to destroy the subjects’ reputations in the public eye, potentially cause conflicts among those involved and undermine the truth. Shouldn’t the subjects speak for themselves and express their own feelings? The damage these journalists create goes beyond those involved in the story; it undermines the most basic principle of journalism, which is trustworthiness and objectivity of the news it reports.

Journalists should be more aware of the power their articles possess and consider professional ethics in every article they write.

Under no circumstances should the truth be compromised with the attention-grabbing tactics of news sources. If a journalist can’t write a story without conducting proper interviews or surveys, then that story should not be covered by an outsider with no emotional attachment to the event.

“Feelings journalism” undermines the process of objective writing in the journalism world. Under no circumstances should this type of writing be encouraged in professionals.

Jenny Dao ’17 dao@stolaf.edu is from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. She majors in political science and economics.

× Featured

"Streetcar" revels in tragedy, emotion