The role of emotion in the future of news

Below is an extract from a new essay in the Social Media and Society Journal by myself and Mark Deuze. Read the full article here.

In the context of a changing media culture, the omnipresence of technology and media in everyday life as people’s lives are increasingly lived in media, and the emergence of journalism as a profoundly precarious profession, we see both a challenge and an opportunity for journalists. Today’s news professionals have to work in this world where their craft is blended into people’s digital mobile lives alongside kittens, shopping, sport, music, online dating and mating rituals, pornography, and games. Journalism is now part of people’s media lives, while it is also a principal component in the connections between people’s personal information spheres and those of others nearby and far away. Professional journalism, in this networked context, simultaneously addresses us individually based on the personal preferences and algorithmic settings governed by our digital shadow, as it reminds us of how we belong and fit to the wider world around us.

At the heart of all of this, we argue, is emotion. Emotion drives people’s increasingly intimate relationships with technology, fuels engagement with news and information, and inspires professionals to pursue careers in an industry that offers anything but reliable rewards for work well done. It inspires connection.

As journalism and society change, emotion is becoming a much more important dynamic in how news is produced and consumed. Emphasizing emotion as the key redefines the classic idea of journalistic objectivity — indeed, it is reshaping the idea of news itself. That matters because journalism has an increasingly significant role in our lives as information, data, and social media become more ubiquitous and more influential. We are drowning in a sea of stories about our world. There is a daily flood of news online combined with the traditional media that is bigger than ever before, despite the business model crisis for some parts of the industry. News consumers have more access, more easily to more journalism than ever before. That means that the news is everywhere, all the time. And it’s a different kind of journalism producing a new kind of news — it is networked. (Bardoel & Deuze, 2001; Heinrich, 2011; Russell, 2011).

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