The Human Journalist: Reporters, Perspectives, and Emotions

The Human Journalist: Reporters, Perspectives, and Emotions

The Human Journalist: Reporters, Perspectives, and Emotions

The Human Journalist: Reporters, Perspectives, and Emotions


Willis examines the many orientations and perspectives of reporters that gather and present the news of the day. Debunking the notion that there are limited perspectives journalists may use, Willis examines up to 15 different orientations that reporters bring to their work. These perspectives run the gamut, from the traditional approach of distancing oneself completely from events and people involved to becoming part of the story's fabric to ascertain the story's true essence. Willis also suggests that, for many stories, it is wholly appropriate for journalists to feel what a non-professional would experience at such an event, and to allow those emotions to fuel the reporting and writing of the story. Several examples are discussed in detail, including the coverage of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.


How important is the journalist to his or her society? If you believe research studies and you see television drama acted out in real life, for better or for worse, you come to feel the journalist is extremely important. President Thomas Jefferson took special note of the importance of the journalist’s work in the burgeoning American society of the nineteenth century. He wrote that, were it left to him to choose a free government without a free press or a free press without a free government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter. His reasoning? No government is going to stay free for long without press freedom.

Do journalists know they hold individual reputations in their hands? Indeed they do. Do they know they could be dragged into libel court as a result of their honest efforts to enlighten society and expose the wrongs that need righting? Yes.

And do journalists understand that they can victimize a second time the people who have already experienced tragedy once? Did Lowell Bergman, formerly a producer with CBS’s 60 Minutes, know that in getting Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, a former senior scientist for Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, to blow the whistle on the company, that he exposed him to legal jeopardy? Yes, Bergman knew that.

And do journalists understand that they are often asked to sign conflictof-interest policies that may deter them from engaging in civic activity as innocent as voting or as publicly supporting a cause or movement? Yes, they do.

Do journalists realize the risk in simply forming strong friendships with nonjournalists: people they may be called upon to write about or use as . . .

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