Kim Smeenk | Making it personal. A digital humanities analysis of how subjectivity shapes the news

Kim Smeenk | Making it personal. A digital humanities analysis of how subjectivity shapes the news | Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Journalism and Media Studies | prof. dr Marcel Broersma, prof. dr Huub Wijfjes, supervisor: dr Frank Harbers | Project dates: 1 september 2019 – 31 augustus 2023 | k.s.p.smeenk[at]rug.nl

My project conceptualizes personal journalism and its epistemological underpinnings by analysing its forms and underlying practices between 1945 and 2018 in Dutch newspapers through a multi-method digital humanities approach. Personal journalism, in which journalists are transparent about how stories are shaped by the reporter’s subjectivity, has been gaining prominence. By foregrounding reporters’ subjectivity, personal journalism overtly shows how a story is grounded in their experiences and beliefs

With journalism’s current struggle to maintain its authority and commercial viability, alternative norms and practices have become more central in journalists’ and academics’ debates on journalism. Embracing a stronger personal engagement in covering the news has become a prominent strategy to (re)engage audiences and foster their trust.

This project addresses these debates by researching personal journalism and its epistemological underpinnings in the Netherlands. It models four types of personal journalism and traces their manifestation over time. I adopt a digital humanities approach, combining a large-scale content analysis, for which I develop and test digital tools, with a qualitative textual analysis. This enables me to provide both an overview of the underlying patterns and trends of personal journalism in Dutch newspapers and an in-depth inquiry into its underlying epistemologies. As such, it aims to advance both the theoretical and empirical knowledge on personal journalism, and to benefit the ongoing debate on journalism’s future as society’s ‘primary sense-making practice’.