Media and journalism are expected to fulfill an important social function by contributing to the self-observation of modern societies. However, the realization of this function is often aggravated by various context factors: Current debates about politically charged catchwords like “fake news” provide evidence of an eroding trust in professional media actors around the globe. The progressing economization of newswork threatens the financial basis of journalism. And technological change leads to further new challenges: Can journalistic information be reliable at all in a time of digital content production?
In this situation, many media scholars – as well as practitioners – are calling for a fundamental redefinition of journalism’s identity and its professional purpose. Rather than following the general obsession with speed, which is characteristic for many online news platforms, they argue that deceleration is the key to help journalism (re)gain trust – and to fulfill its social function in the best possible way. Particularly high hopes are nourished by the approach of a narrative journalism, using literary techniques that are often said to have multifaceted positive effects – for example in order to generate attention for certain topics and communicate them in a most comprehensible manner. At the same time, however, literary approaches to journalism regularly cause considerable criticism, particularly when they contribute to blurring the sacred boundaries between fact and fiction.
Although the research about literary journalism has a long tradition, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon world, the concept is not widespread in the German-speaking world. The project “Telling it right: The ethics of narrative journalism” tries to tackle this void with a succession theoretical and empirical studies that illuminate both the traditions and the present of literary journalism in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. A special focus is put on the normative challenges of journalistic storytelling that can be illustrated, for example, with the help of an analysis of the recent case of the pseudo-reporter Claas Relotius.
University of Bamberg, Institute for Communication Studies
International Association for Literary Journalism Studies (IALJS)