Journalism as an affective institution. Emotional labor and the discourse on fraud at Der Spiegel
Margreth Lünenborg , Débora Medeiros – 2020
This paper explores the underlying aspects surrounding emotional labor in everyday life inside news-rooms and how these aspects contribute to discursively (de)stabilize journalism as an institution. In order to do this, we apply the literature on affect and emotion in journalism as well as on discursive institutionalism to the analysis of a particular moment of crisis: the fraud scandal around Claas Relotius, an award-winning German reporter for the news magazine Der Spiegel. The discovery of his massive fake feature stories caused a fierce and controversial discussion on the media about structural problems in journalism as well as the use of emotion in feature stories and exclusion mechanisms inside the newsroom. In our textual analysis of 138 articles on this case published in German and selected international media between December 2018 and December 2019, we uncovered four main areas in which the role of emotions is discursively negotiated (1) Form: feature stories and their use of emotions, (2) Actor: emotional attributions to Relotius, (3) Practice: emotions as part of editorial practices, understood here as emotional labor in the newsroom, and (4) Institution: the description of the event and its affective implications for journalism as a whole.