Work of the Sob Sisters

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Long narratives about disfiguring aiments, and fatal illnesses particularly involving young children pull at the heart strings. The lessons of redemption and spiritual stamina strongly tug at the emotional connection of the reader.

Today, like long ago, stories are manipulating emotions more than they are providing information. A study of trends in Pulitzer Prize-winning feature stories found that a significant amount of the winning stories were about illness or a death by murder.

Appetites for emotinal stories are growing. During a time of anxiety and recession, readers often find these tales comforting. Unlike its macho past, newspapers and journalism today is built on the emotional connection. In a competitive media market you have to deliver something "different". The need to find positive meaning in suffering and the redemption to over come is so strong that journalists tend to go overboard.

Matthew T. Felling, media director at the Center for Media and Public Affairs, attributes the trend to a "weep creep" from television to print. The "sob stories" have become a standard and have conditioned news consumers to look for them in every news product.

Does this emotional connection attract the otherwise less interested reader? Newspapers and other media outlets alike are taking the "shock jock" approach in order to maintain profit margins and business models.


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