How the News Feels
The Empathic Power of Literary Journalists
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Literary journalism's origins can be traced to the nineteenth century, when it developed alongside the era's sentimental literature. Combining fact-based reporting with the sentimentality of popular fiction, literary journalism encouraged readers to empathize with subjects by presenting more nuanced and engaging stories than typical news coverage. While women writers were central to the formation and ongoing significance of the genre, literary journalism scholarship has largely ignored their contributions.
How the News Feels re-centers the work of a range of writers who were active from the nineteenth century until today, including Catharine Williams, Margaret Fuller, Nellie Bly, Winifred Black, Zora Neale Hurston, Joan Didion, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, and Alexis Okeowo. Offering intimate access to their subjects' thoughts, motivations, and yearnings, these journalists encouraged readers to empathize with society's outcasts, from asylum inmates and murder suspects to “fallen women" and the working poor. As this carefully researched study shows, these writers succeeded in defining and developing the genre of literary journalism, with stories that inspire action, engender empathy, and narrow the gap between writer, subject, and audience.
“How the News Feels is a pleasure to read due to Fitzgerald’s lucid, engaging, animated, and clear writing style. At the same time, it also makes a significant contribution to its field by expanding scholarly understanding of sentimentalism as not just a style but an ethos—an ethos that has significantly shaped the genre of literary journalism through the work of generations of woman and nonbinary writers.”—Laura R. Fisher, author of Reading for Reform: The Social Work of Literature in the Progressive Era