Banal journalism or a crash between agency and professional norms?


  • Ullamaija Kivikuru



catastrophe reporting, journalistic professionalism, agency


Using some recent examples as a starting point, this paper discusses catastrophe reporting. The claim is that catastrophe reporting reveals some sore points in journalistic professionalism as a whole. The theoretical frames are sought from research on “agency”. According to this approach, distances can be overcome through a purely personal effort. The agency component potentially invites the spectators to feel and act for the sufferers. In order to do that, journalistic professionals are compelled to use new tools in news reporting: emotions and sources, which qualify via experience and suffering rather than rationality and observation. The basic question here is whether the journalistic profession itself, with its fixed and stereotyped norms and practices, has driven the profession into a delicate situation. Natural, participatory contact with the people-on-the-street is regulated by professional rules. Accordingly, the profession tends to express itself with clumsy, even vulgar and artificial terms; professional ethics cannot follow the new trend.

Author Biography

Ullamaija Kivikuru

Professor of Journalism, Swdish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki




How to Cite

Kivikuru, U. (2011). Banal journalism or a crash between agency and professional norms?. Observatorio (OBS*), 5(2).