Emotion in journalism


Essential information for news stories. Photo source.

Who, what, when, where, why, how – the five Ws and a H.

Inverted pyramid – give readers the most necessary information first.

Currency, importance, accuracy – news values.

These are some of the things that my university journalism lecturers have ingrained in me since I took my first journalism class almost three years ago. Although these practices are relevant to online journalism, we do adapt them slightly to match the platform.

But where is the emotion, people?

In a Fairfax video entitled “Shareability” that was provided in my learning materials a few weeks ago, journalists discuss what makes content shareable in the online space.

What makes a story shareable for me is emotion

This is beyond news values, this is beyond writing in a way that gives readers the most important information first. Provoking emotion in your readers is essential to creating a connection, and creating a connection with your readers is essential to them wanting to connect others to your content.

Enter the concept of shareability.

People want to share a story … as a form of social interaction

The Fairfax video explains that one reason people might want to share a story is because it articulates something that they are feeling, so that by sharing it with their friends, they’re talking about themselves.

Shareability is the potential for your content to be shared online, a practice that attracts more readers. Photo source.

Shareability is the potential for your content to be shared online, a practice that attracts more readers. Photo source.

Enter the reader. The reader will never exit.

Aside from truth, the reader is the reason for journalism. Journalists write stories for them to be read, so the reader is a key player in journalism, especially online journalism. How to engage readers and how to increase traffic to your news site are only some of the challenges faced in online journalism.

Having an audience is key to

Increasing traffic is a challenge in online journalism that you can remedy in part by cultivating a social media presence. Photo source.

Emotion is one of the solutions.

A reader must feel something to read something; interest must be piqued and emotion must be tweaked. This is especially true for online content, because readers have such a short attention span when reading online.

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention

Herbert Simon 1977 (source)

So you want your content to be read and shared? Inject some emotion. People want to know about people, so answer their burning questions:

  • Did the family with two small children make it out of the burning building uninjured?
  • Has that missing girl been found dead or alive?
  • What is the husband feeling after finding out his wife committed suicide?

Emotion is a connector, it’s what we as humans all have in common.

Emotion is key to connecting with your readers.


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