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Mediation of Emotions: Sentimental Citizens, Communities of Feeling and Emotional Public Sphere

Final Activity Report Summary - MEDIAEMOTIONS (Mediation of Emotions: Sentimental Citizens, Communities of Feeling and Emotional Public Sphere)

The research project examines the mediation of emotions in the news media in Finland, Great Britain and the Netherlands from a historical perspective, and pays particular attention to the relationship between the mediation of emotions and political participation. It studies what does the emotionalisation of the public sphere mean in respect to news media, and how emotions are produced and managed in the television news and newspapers.

We ask 1) how the mediation of emotions changed in respect to the content and style, 2) what role can the mediation of emotions play in respect to social and political engagement in the British, Dutch and Finnish television news and newspapers, and 3) how can we assess the value of the mediation of emotions.

Our results show that emotional expression has gained more prominence in news reporting, contributing to the affective turn of the everyday life. Emotional reactions to disasters vary, and the media give more weight to some responses at the expense of others, therefore participating in the emotion management. Not all emotional reactions contribute equally to political participation; while some emotional expressions are produced to strengthen social bonds and community, others increase the possibility of the critique towards political authorities.

We show that news reporting increasingly gives space for emotional expression and reflects the growing focus on intimacy and personal feelings in the public sphere, in particular by paying more attention to the ordinary people and civic rituals. We show that rather than demonstrating any decline in journalistic standards disaster coverage draws on the power of an emotional politics that both builds communities and enforces accountability.

Regarding the public value of emotional expression we show a relatively tolerant approach amongst journalists to the presence of emotion in news journalism, highlighting emotional expression as means of facilitating understanding, although this is in the context of a fundamentally unchanged professional discourse around objectivity as an absolute value. We also show that the emotional literacy of the journalists does not extend to a consideration of whether the news is an active force in shaping audience and public emotions.