Inscribing virtues in Australian literary journalism: an investigation into how journalists communicate emotions to readers of the magazine-style Walkley Award winning features, 1988-2014
AffiliationSchool of Culture and Communication
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2017 Dr. Jennifer Martin
In this thesis, I investigate how journalists employ a range of literary devices and professional media skills to craft award winning narratives that construct and communicate emotions and notions of virtues to an imagined, virtuous community of readers. This research explores the importance of emotion and the function of virtue within the magazine-style Walkley Award winning feature articles (the ‘Walkley Features’) between 1988 and 2014. It considers to what extent this corpus of quality journalism contributes towards the nourishing of a modern democracy by performing the important cultural work of helping the Australian community to live well together – both with and through the media. These issues are discussed through an analysis of how the journalists successfully transport readers into narratives, which, I argue, encourages readers to experience a range of emotions. I investigate the range of writing tools that journalists utilise to facilitate transportation, which include, but are not limited to, scene setting; the choice of narrative voice; dialogue and what journalist Tom Wolfe referred to as evidence of a person’s ‘status life’, that is the ‘recording of everyday gestures, habits, manners, customs, styles of furniture, decoration’ (Wolfe 1973, pp.31-32). This study also pays attention to the complex effect the particular combination of literary and reporting devices has upon the narratorial presence (Lee 2011, pp.8-9) of readers. The term narratorial presence is used to describe where readers imagine themselves to be positioned when reading the story. It is not a literary device, rather it is the complex and nuanced effect of the total ensemble of devices being used at any moment in a literary narrative and refers to the position that the reader imagines themselves to be when reading the story (Lee 2011, pp.8-9). A shifting narratorial presence enables readers to view the story through different perspectives, while still maintaining a sense of their own, separate self. I argue that it is possible to identify a range of virtues within these Walkley Features, such as responsibility; honesty; courage; resilience and full empathy (which includes the virtues of compassion, kindness and sympathy). To assist in this investigation, I have devised a new theoretical framework, the Virtue Paradigm, and a new methodological analysis, the Virtue Map. I also draw upon Aristotle’s intellectual virtue of phronesis (Aristotle. NE II.7, 1107b18-20, trans. Thomson 1953, revised Treddenick 1979) or practical wisdom, and examine how these articles encourage readers to reflect, reason and, importantly, engage with the issues constructed within the Walkley Features. I find among the corpus of articles examples that fulfil what I have described as journalism’s phronetic function: to educate and inform readers while providing them with an opportunity to transform their views and increase their connection with their civic community.
Keywordsnarrative journalism; literary journalism; feature journalism; virtue ethics and journalism; emotion and journalism; Walkley Awards; award winning journalism; Australian journalism
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