PhD course: “The Softening of Journalism”

Journalism research has a long tradition of prioritizing political journalism and news media, primarily as a political public sphere. This political leaning is closely linked to the professional and normative ideal or ideology of Western journalism, an ideal that stipulates journalism’s role of society’s watchdog, addressing urgent events and issues of societal importance (e.g., Curran 2011; Deuze 2005). Thus in many ways the political bias is fully justified. One consequence, however, has been that less attention has been devoted to the news media’s coverage of “softer” issues, even though a variety of aspects of human life have become increasingly important parts of news production during the twentieth century and are today covered and debated intensively across media platforms. When occasionally addressed by scholars, these topics have typically been analyzed in relation to political journalism and often in a critical perspective, for example when seen as signs of the tabloidization and commercialization of journalism (e.g., Reinemann et al. 2011). Simply, these topics have been viewed as less legitimate kinds of journalism in their own right.

A new research agenda is however emerging, engaging with issues in journalism such as emotions/emotionality, affect, human interest, subjectivity, personality, public/private boundary work, service, culture and lifestyle, cultural and societal critique and “life politics” (Eide & Knight 1999, Hanusch 2012, Hanusch & Hanitzsch 2015, Kristensen & From 2015, Wahl-Jorgensen 2013a, 2013b), but also engaging with the political and cultural potentials of these softer aspects of journalism. This doctoral seminar taps into this research agenda by exploring how these and related issues provide new paths for journalism studies in a digital media landscape.

Based on her on-going research on emotionality in journalism, Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen from Cardiff University will discuss how a “strategic ritual of emotionality” in journalism underpins forms of journalistic storytelling. While emotion has often been maligned and viewed as the polar opposite of “objective” journalism, her work on award-winning journalism has demonstrated how it plays a key role in making accessible what may otherwise be abstract and complex social issues. At the same time, the era of digital journalism and the emergence of social media have ushered in new forms of “affective news streams” (Papacharissi, 2014) which introduce new repertoires of public discourse.

Based on his extensive research on lifestyle journalism, Professor Folker Hanusch from University of Vienna addresses the role that lifestyle journalism plays in increasingly mediatized, individualized, and multi-optional societies, where audiences increasingly look to the media for advice on how to live their lives. Drawing on surveys and interviews in Australia and Germany, he discusses how lifestyle journalists themselves view their role in this changing environment, examining their professional backgrounds, role perceptions and ethical views. Special attention is further given to the important relationship between public relations and advertising on one hand, and journalists on the other, in an industry that is particularly reliant on field of consumption.

Based on their previous research on the changes in arts and cultural journalism, the changing professionalism of arts and cultural journalists and an ongoing study of cultural critique in the digital age, Associate Professors Nete Nørgaard Kristensen and Unni From address how cultural journalists use digital media technologies for professional purposes, but also to promote their ‘personalized’ professional brand and the media institution they represent by displaying networks and communicating cultural tastes and lifestyle preferences in a conversational style.

We invite PhD-students from (for example) media studies, journalism studies, communication studies and cultural studies to address a range of questions relating to the softening of journalism, for example (but not limited to) how to define/conceptualize this softening of journalism; the challenges and potentials of the blurring boundaries of the public/private in professional journalism; the performative aspects of journalism; the influence of newer forms of journalism/journalism formats (long reads, multi-modality, immersive journalism).

Organizers: The course is organized in collaboration between University of Copenhagen (Nete Nørgaard Kristensen/MEF) and Aarhus University (Unni From/Arts).

Keynote speakers:

  • Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Cardiff University
  • Professor Folker Hanusch, University of Vienna
  • Associate Professor, Unni From, Aarhus University
  • Associate Professor Nete Nørgaard Kristensen, University of Copenhagen

Date and time: 21-22 February 2017 from 10 am to 5 pm day one, 9 am to 4 pm day two.

Preparation: As preparation for the course, the doctoral students are required to read a compendium in addition to the submitted papers by doctoral students.

Max. number of participants: 20 in total.

Max. number of papers presentations: 10.

ECTS: 1,5 for participation; 3 for participation and presentation of paper.

Registration: Please register via the link in the box on the right no later than January 9th, 2017.?Please also send a a short abstract of your PhD project of max. half page to before January 9th, 2017.

Paper: Please submit your paper of maximum 8-20 pages no later than February 1st, 2017 to

Compulsory readings:

  • Fürsich, E. (2012). Lifestyle Journalism as Popular Journalism: Strategies for Evaluating its Public Role in the Era of Globalization. Journalism Practice, 6(1), 12-25.
  • Hanusch, Folker, Hanitzsch, Thomas & Lauerer, Corinna (2015). ‘How much love are you going to give this brand?’ Lifestyle journalists on commercial influences in their work. Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism. DOI: 10.1177/1464884915608818.
  • Hanusch, Folker & Thomas Hanitzsch (2013). “Mediating Orientation and Self-expression in the World of Consumption: Exploring lifestyle journalists’ professional views.” Media, Culture & Society. 35(8): 943-959.
  • Kristensen, N.N. & From, U. (2015) ‘From Ivory Tower to Cross-Media Personas: The heterogeneous cultural critic in the media’, Journalism Practice 9(6), 853-871;  DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2015.1051370
  • Papacharissi, Z., & de Fatima Oliveira, M. (2012). Affective news and networked publics: The rhythms of news storytelling on# Egypt. Journal of Communication62(2), 266-282.
  • Wahl-Jorgensen, K (2016) Emotion and journalism. In T Witschge, C Anderson, D Domingo, and A Hermida (Eds) The SAGE Handbook of Digital Journalism (pp.128-143). London: Sage.
  • Wahl-Jorgensen, K. (2013). The strategic ritual of emotionality: A case study of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles. Journalism14(1), 129-145.

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